Throughout Gauteng Province there are numerous colleges and schools that offer cooking courses. There is one specific college that stands out above the rest, and that is the Prue Leith College of Food and Wine. Tiny Barnetson and Graham Ledger, who approached Prue Leith OBE, a world-renowned culinary expert who was decorated in the United Kingdom for the work she had done to promote the catering industry in that country, in order to use her name and assistance, started this small specialist college in 1997. The catering industry in South Africa has suffered from a shortage of dedicated staff since the tourist industry started booming after the democratization of the country. This shortage was identified and we decided to do something about it by starting a catering school dedicated to South African needs. The objectives of the college are to produce chefs who are qualified in cooking, restaurant service, wine, kitchen management and financial controls. The college can be found in a garden suburb in Centurion, halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria and just a couple of minutes’ drive from the highway that runs between the two cities.
In order to be accepted at the college, students must have obtained a standard grade pass in Matric and be at least eighteen years of age. The course is spread over three semesters and lasts eighteen months. On successful completion of the course students receive a diploma, which is recognized throughout the world. The college consists of a fully equipped demonstration kitchen as well as a large teaching kitchen, a 60-seat restaurant with separate lounge area, a lecture room. Outside there is a boma for outdoor adventure cooking, a tea garden, a swimming pool and a venue for weddings and receptions. There is ample parking and accommodation for a limited number of students.
During the cooking course students are required to spend practical time working in the college’s restaurant, Prue Leith’s. Here they not only cook but also wait at table under professional supervision. The restaurant is recognized as being one of the top ten in the whole of Gauteng and has been awarded the Blaizon from the Chaîne Des Rotisseurs. In addition students spend six months in term two working at selected game lodges, restaurants and hotels in South Africa, Ireland and Dubai.
Highly qualified teachers, all of whom have wide experience in the catering industry, man the college. In addition there are a number of recognized industry leaders who visit the college to give demonstrations and talks to students an a regular basis. These talks include such subjects as Bush cooking, Indian, Thai and Japanese cuisine, Cake Icing, Nutrition, Hygene, Job Interviews, the preparation of a Curriculum Vitae and so on. At the end of the course, the college, which has some excellent links in the catering industry, will help to place students in appropriate positions. As far as cooking courses in Gauteng go, this course is probably the best to go for. It is extremely comprehensive and is backed by an advisory panel that includes three of South Africa’s top culinary experts.