Situated in a quiet suburb of Centurion between Johannesburg and Pretoria in the former Lyttelton Manor House, and surrounded by attractive gardens, is an International Chef’s School. The Prue Leith College of Food and Wine was started in 1997 after we identified an increasing shortage of expert staff in the South African catering industry. With other expert help we devised an eighteen-month catering course specifically geared for the local market. Tourism is by far the fastest growing industry in South Africa in the post apartheid era, and inevitably there has been a shortage of good trained staff, especially highly trained catering staff. One of the objects of the foundation of this college is to address this shortage. To do this, the course has a distinctly South African flavour to it, and this is true of Prue Leith’s, the restaurant on the premises, which specializes in fresh and straightforward dishes made from fresh South African produce. There is also a college Boma in the grounds and students get training here in the art of Bush-cooking and Pan-African cuisine.
The Prue Leith Food and Wine College is not without its internationally renowned chefs, for the advisory panel includes Heinz Brunner, President of the South African Chef’s Association, and Billy Gallagher, Honorary President of the World Association of Cooks’ Societies. Prue herself has been decorated for her services to the catering industry in the United Kingdom. Many of the catering industry’s leaders are regularly invited to speak or give demonstrations at the college. The subjects covered by these visitors include Kitchen Planning, How to prepare for an Interview, Curricula Vitae, Nutrition, Health and Kitchen Hygiene. There are often international chefs visiting the school who demonstrate Thai, Indian and Japanese cooking. Although the accent is on local cuisine, many of the other cuisines found in restaurants within South Africa are also covered in lectures.
The course in Centurion lasts for eighteen months and is split up into three semesters. Applicants for the course must have obtained a minimum of a standard grade pass in Matric and must be eighteen years old. Certain equipment must be supplied by the students themselves, and this includes two chef’s uniforms, a set of cook’s knives and icing equipment and a bottle opener. College fees are substantial but include all course material with the exception of text books. Students are required to register with the South African Chef’s Association upon acceptance into the college – help will be given in the registration process if it is needed.
Students enrolled in the International Chef’s School are required to attend training and work experience as rostered. This includes working in both day and night shifts, which are generally not more than eight hours, in both the college and in the college restaurant, Prue Leith’s. Prue Leith’s is open to the general public four nights a week from 7 until 12. As part of the main course, students must take the Cape Wine Academy Certificate course and there is an option of attending a popular tour to the Western Cape wine lands during the course.