Catering courses of one type or another are available in many of the larger centres of South Africa, but la crème de la crème of catering courses is to be found at the Prue Leith Catering College in Centurion, halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria. The major growth industry in South Africa over the past fifteen years is tourism, and the dynamic growth in this industry has caused a growing demand for highly qualified culinary experts throughout the length and breadth of the country. The college in Centurion offers a comprehensive eighteen-month diploma course starting in either January or July of each year, and students are required to complete the Cape Wine Academy Certificate Course, which is included in the eighteen months they are at the college. There is an optional tour to the wine lands of the Western Cape where numbers permit.
Catering courses are widely available in South Africa, and range from a six-month full time course that leaves the student with an International City and Guilds Diploma to a two-year City and Guilds Diploma in Cordon Bleu Cookery. Without exception courses might appear quite pricey, but in all cases the student finishes the course as a highly trained, hands-on chef. The course offered in Centurion is no exception, and the curriculum is extremely comprehensive, with an accent on South African cuisine. Recognised catering industry leaders regularly visit the college to give specialized talks and demonstrations of their particular specialization. Practical training in Centurion takes place in the college’s own restaurant, The Odd Plate, which seats sixty and is open to the public. This restaurant has been awarded the Blazon from the distinguished Chaîne des Rotisseurs in France, and is among Gauteng’s top restaurants. Students also spend six weeks each in terms two and three at a selected lodge, hotel or restaurant in order to expose them to the realities of the workplace. A student might well find himself spending his or her practical time in the Western Cape or even as far away as Ireland or Dubai. There is a 24 seat Boma in the college grounds that adds exposure to bush cooking to the student’s experience.
In addition to the eighteen month catering courses offered by the college, regular short courses and leadership exercises are run under the direction of qualified chefs. The full-time students are regularly rostered to help at these short courses in order to get further practical experience. The eighteen-month catering course offered by the Prue Leith Catering College compares extremely favourably with any other course being offered in South Africa. The course is specifically designed around foods with a distinctly South African flavour, the object being to try to plug the gap in the country’s culinary industry caused by the rapidly growing tourism industry. By the time a student has finished the catering course in Centurion, he or she has reached a standard second to none, and is ready to go out into the world with a sound and thorough knowledge of the catering industry.