There is a cooking academy in Gauteng that offers locals, who aspire to become chefs, the opportunity to pursue courses that can earn them international qualifications, while conducting all their lessons in South Africa. In the past, an international culinary diploma might have required a lengthy period of overseas study in one of Europe’s recognised centres of excellence, such as France or Switzerland. Now, the prestigious City & Guilds of London board has approved the Prue Leith Chefs Academy to conduct its examinations externally. The school is located in Centurion just about 15 kilometres south of the nation’s administrative capital – Pretoria.
Conveniently situated to serve the needs of learners who live in the country’s smallest yet most populous province, this premier teaching establishment is a cooking academy that displays several marked differences from run-of-the-mill competitors. Noted for courses such as the Grande Diploma in Culinary Arts & Wine, its lessons are conducted not by academics, with just theory and text books to back them, but by professionals who have mastered the culinary arts in some of the country’s leading restaurants and hotels.
Under the watchful eye of these experienced specialists, new entrants are expertly instructed and given extensive practical experience in order to develop the basic foundation skills during their 1st Commis semester. All those enrolled in any of the cooking courses conducted by the academy, receive their theory lessons in the comfort of an air conditioned lecture room equipped with top quality, state-of-the-art, audio-visual teaching aids. It is sound practice, however, that makes perfect, and that also puts quality food on a paying customer’s plate. Naturally then, the school provides its learners with spacious and well-equipped kitchen facilities in which to apply their newly-acquired theory and gain that vitally important practice.
During their first semester, all those learners who have enrolled for one of the courses of cooking lessons at the Prue Leith Chefs Academy will complete their practical work in a training kitchen designed specifically for this purpose. The facility has 20 stations and each student is issued with a full set of equipment that includes a number of useful, heavy duty kitchen aids such as a pasta machine. Once they are ready to commence their 2nd semester, the more advanced practical work is then undertaken in the school’s main kitchen.
To allow for the differing needs of learners when preparing either hot or cold dishes, as well as for those of the pastry chefs, the main kitchen is divided into three areas. Each is dedicated to one of the three specified activities and operates under the close supervision of a trio of specialist sous chefs. This practice allows the academy to conduct multiple cooking lessons and different courses simultaneously, without the risk that groups engaged in different activities may present a distraction to one another.
Costs have become an important consideration for most South Africans following the recent global recession and the opportunity to pursue an internationally-recognised qualification locally could represent a substantial saving, compared with the combined expenses of air travel, accommodation and course fees when studying for a similar diploma overseas.
Interestingly, one of the cooking courses offered by the Prue Leith Chefs Academy is run jointly with one of Italy’s leading culinary training institutions – ALMA. The foundation subjects are conducted locally as part of the Grande Diploma courses and are supplemented by elementary Italian language orientation, including familiarisation with the Italian culture. To complete the Professional Chef of Italian Cuisine qualification, the remainder of the cooking lessons are then continued in Parma, Italy. Despite the need to travel, every effort has been made by the school to ensure both convenience and a cost structure similar to those courses run on a totally local basis.
Our famous patronage, the quality of our skilled and experienced teaching staff, and our training facilities have made this the nation’s foremost cooking academy.