Prue Leith Vegetarian Cooking School

Vegetarians, as we know the word, have been around for just 160 years, though it is true that many religions and religious sects have practised what we know as vegetarianism for thousands of years. The majority of the world’s vegetarians are. in fact, Hindus. Fifty years ago it would have been difficult to find a restaurant that served vegetarian food, but as the way of life has become more popular, so has the inclusion of at least one vegetarian dish on the menus of most restaurants. The trend is so popular today that vegetarian cooking has been included in school’s curricula. The Prue Leith College of Food and Wine is one such school where vegetarian cooking has appeared as part of the course content. Vegetarian cooking is here to stay at most catering schools throughout South Africa.

The Prue Leith College of Food and Wine can be found in a quiet backwater of Hennopspark, a suburb of Centurion halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria. The Prue Leith College is a tertiary education establishment of the highest order – the Prue Leith Diploma is acclaimed throughout the culinary world as being an excellent qualification, and young chefs who have graduated are expected to be at the top of their field within a few years of leaving the school. Vegetarian cooking as a subject is taken by every student who passes through the college, as are other specialist dishes such as halal or kosher cooking.

The Prue Leith College is situated in the beautiful grounds of the old Lyttleton Manor House and the premises include:

  • A fully equipped demonstration kitchen
  • A large teaching kitchen
  • A lecture theatre
  • The 60 seat Prue Leith’s Restaurant
  • An outdoor boma
  • A tea garden
  • A reception and party venue
  • A herb garden

The Diploma Course at the college is split into three 6-month semesters and the eighteen month long course starts in either January or July of each year. Students may apply using the application form on the Prue Leith web site. They must be eighteen years old and have passed their Matric Exams. They may be accepted for an interview and if so will have to complete a further questionnaire.

During their first semester students spend most of their time attending lectures and demonstrations. They will be expected to do between three and five hours’ homework each week. It is during this school phase that students try out vegetarian cooking in the teaching kitchen. The second semester sees students putting into practice that which they have learned during the academic and practical phase of the first semester. Students are put to work in the college restaurant, which is open to the public five nights a week, and in Prue Leith Catering, another branch of the college. In both of these work venues the young chefs get to practice the vegetarian cooking they have learned in school. Both here and in the final semester, when they are placed at selected five star hotels, game lodges and restaurants under top class chefs, students gain invaluable experience that will serve them in good stead for the rest of their careers.