“The most beautiful thing you can do in any profession is teach your craft.” So said Francois Dionot, founder of L’Academie de Cuisine, the premier culinary school in Washington DC, and recognized among the finest schools in the United States. For aspiring chefs in southern Africa, perhaps the finest chef’s school they can consider attending is the Prue Leith Chef’s School in Hennopspark, Centurion. Centurion is a thoughtfully planned garden town adjacent to Midrand and between Johannesburg and Pretoria.
The college was founded with a clear image in our mind of a country with a rapidly expanding tourist industry. The Rand Dollar Pound exchange rate is such that it makes the country an extremely desirable destination. Since the first truly democratic election, South Africa has been host to huge numbers of visitors, both tourists and businesspeople and women, from Europe and America. Without exception these visitors have a desire to experience African cuisine, and it is with this in mind that the curriculum and training here in Centurion has been planned. Over an eighteen-month course, students learn all the finer aspects of catering in Africa. The course does not just teach students the classic art of fine dining, though. It includes such subjects as Front of House, herb gardens, food sanitation, hygiene and finance.
The practical aspect of the course includes time spent in the college boma where students are trained in the art of Bush Cooking. A pan-African cuisine module was recently introduced and is proving very popular. During the third semester of the course, students spend six months placed at top hotels or game lodges in all parts of South Africa, and even as far away as the Middle East, Ireland and Britain. There is also a 60-seater restaurant on the school’s premises. Prue Leith’s has been recognized as being among the cream of restaurants in Gauteng. As part of the chef’s training, the college also offers the Cape Wine Academy Certificate course, which students are required to take. There is also an optional tour to the Cape wine lands of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, where students are exposed to the finer arts of winemaking and to the relationship between good wine and good food.
Enrollment at the chef’s school is limited to forty students per course. The course lasts three semesters starting in either January or July of each year. There are never more than 120 students enrolled at the school at any one time. Students are required to register with the South African Chef’s Association. On completion of the eighteen-month chef’s school, students are awarded the Prue Leith Diploma with a graded pass as well as the Cape Wine Academy Certificate. By the time students have passed out of the school they are able to take their place in any of the hundreds of establishments throughout the country, and to this end the college runs its own placement company to assist students in finding a job after graduation.