Throughout the Greater Johannesburg area you will find a large number of cooking colleges, many of them being excellent teaching establishments. But as far as cooking colleges go in the Johannesburg area, there is only one worth considering. Set in the grounds of the old Lyttelton Manor House in Centurion, halfway between Pretoria and Johannesburg, is the Prue Leith College of Food and Wine. The college aims to train professionals for the South African culinary industry. Which has been suffering a shortage of highly dedicated and expert staff in the wake of the huge boom in tourism in the country.
After identifying the shortage of trained staff in the local industry, the college was founded in 1997 by Tiny Barnetson and Graham Ledger, who approached Prue Leith, the internationally renowned culinary expert in the restaurant and catering field, in order to use her name and assistance to start the college. Prue was born in South Africa and studied at the University of Cape Town. Shortly after graduating, she left for Europe where she became a household name and was awarded an OBE for the contribution she made to the food industry in the United Kingdom. Prue visits the College regularly to lecture and to do demonstrations, as do several other highly qualified industry leaders.
The course at the college lasts for eighteen months and is split into three semesters of six months each, starting in January and July, so that there are always three courses running concurrently. Prospective students must be 18 years old and have a standard grade Matric pass. From day one students are expected to work in the college’s own restaurant, Prue. Leith’s. The restaurant holds sixty diners and is open four nights a week, Wednesday through to Saturday. Students cook the food, wait at table and act as Maître d’Hotel and wine waiter, all under supervision. Prue Leith’s is ranked in the top twenty restaurants in South Africa by the Business Day, and has been awarded its Blaizon from the Chaîne Des Rotisseurs. The curriculum includes not only cooking, but also reservations, finance and management as well as kitchen organization. During their third semester students are placed in selected lodges, restaurants and hotels throughout South Africa and as far afield as Ireland and Dubai for six months so as to expose them to the realities and responsibilities of the actual workplace.
Before completing this thorough course, students spend some time learning about Pan-African cuisine and Bush cooking in the boma in the college grounds. As part of the course the college offers the Cape Wine Academy Certificate course, which students are required to complete before they graduate. There is also a tour to the wine regions of the Western Cape subject to the minimum numbers being met. The Prue Leith College is undoubtedly the best of the cooking colleges in the Johannesburg region. Students graduate after eighteen months with a Diploma that is recognized throughout the culinary world.