After identifying a pending shortage in the supply of highly motivated and expert culinary staff in the catering industry in South Africa, we decided to do something about it by starting a cooking academy in Centurion. The cooking academy is situated in the grounds of an old manor house in Hennopspark, a picturesque suburb of Centurion and is halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria. We founded the Prue Leith College of Food and Wine in 1997 with the aim of filling the gap in the industry by supplying qualified staff who had completed a course that was accented towards the South African culinary industry. The cooking academy is named after Prue Leith, a world-renowned culinary expert who was decorated for her services to the catering industry in the United Kingdom.
Students are accepted into the small college after obtaining a Matric pass at standard grade and if they are seventeen years of age or more. Theoretical and practical training at the academy is supplemented by extensive exposure to the realities of the actual workplace under close supervision. From their very first week, students spend time working in the college’s own restaurant, Prue Leith’s. The students wait at table taking orders and serving the same, they cook the food and act as wine steward and Maître d’Hotel. Prue Leith’s has received its Blaizon from the Chaine Des Rotisseurs, and has been ranked in the top twenty restaurants in the country and the top ten restaurants in Gauteng by Business Day. The restaurant is fully licensed.
The academy offers a single course of eighteen months split into three semesters of six months each. The course starts in January and July and there are always three courses running concurrently. During the third semester students are placed at various top class game lodges, restaurants and hotels across South Africa and even as far afield as Dubai and Ireland for six months. During this time they gain valuable exposure to the realities of the industry and are treated as normal staff members. The academy also includes a course on pan African cuisine and Bush cooking in the college Boma situated in the grounds. All students are required to complete the Cape Wine Academy Certificate course, which falls into their second semester programme. A certificate is awarded to all students who graduate.
Prue Leith visits the College regularly to lecture, give demonstrations, review the curriculum, monitor standards, act as an external examiner and maintain links with the international catering fraternity. Recognized catering industry leaders are also invited to give regular demonstrations and talks to students on a variety of specialized subjects. These include Indian, Thai and Japanese cooking, Nutrition, Hygiene, Job Interviews and the preparation of Curriculum Vitae. This cooking academy in Centurion has been a welcome addition to the community and to the culinary industry of South Africa.