Few people realize that there is one of the country’s top restaurants in Centurion. You can find the restaurant in the grounds of the college in Hennopspark, a picturesque suburb of Centurion. Prue Leith’s has been awarded its Blaizon from the Chaîne Des Rotisseurs in France and has been ranked in the top twenty restaurants in the country and the top ten restaurants in Gauteng by the Business Day. The restaurant takes its name from the Patron of the college in whose grounds it stands. The restaurant is fully licensed and is open five evenings a week, Wednesday to Saturday.. But how did this restaurant come about?
Several years ago we identified a gap that had appeared in many fine restaurants, game lodges and hotels at the time, namely a shortage of well-motivated and highly qualified culinary staff. There had been a boom in the tourist industry in South Africa after democratization. Catering establishments just couldn’t keep up with the demands made upon them, and very soon it was obvious that there was a general shortage of personnel available to fill vacant positions. It was also obvious that it would take some time to train up new staff to the standards that had been set by the industry. Both the foreign tourist and the South African traveler wanted stylish, simple food of exceptional quality and with a South African flavour. They did not particularly want grand International Cuisine. We had the brilliant idea of starting up a culinary college, and the obvious place to put it was halfway between Johannesburg and Pretoria.
We approached Prue Leith, who was awarded the OBE for her services to the catering industry in the United Kingdom, in order to use her name and assistance and decided to build a college in the grounds of the old Lyttelton Manor House. You can find the restaurant in the grounds of the college in Hennopspark, a picturesque suburb of Centurion. Students from the college staff the restaurant. They take orders, prepare and cook the meals, wait at table and fill the positions of wine steward and Maître d’Hotel, all under professional supervision. Students are accepted into the college once they have achieved at least a standard grade pass at Matric and if they have reached eighteen years of age. The school’s catering course lasts eighteen months over three six-month semesters. There are a maximum number of students per course of forty, so no more than 120 students are at the college at any one time. During the course students spend six months during term three at countrywide game lodges, restaurants and hotels in order to gain hands-on experience in a catering establishment.
Prue Leith’s offers a table d’ Hôtel menu, with a choice of starters, a soup, main courses including a vegetarian dish, desserts, and coffee and friandise. The menu changes seasonally and is designed to incorporate the theory covered in the lectures during the week. Senior students team up in pairs, and are given full responsibility for the Restaurant for a week at a time. This is known internally as “Menu Week” and is a source of great excitement as it is the first time such students will be “in charge” of the Restaurant. Students are required to produce their own special dishes for the week, which are served in addition to the menu. Their duties include planning and costing their menus, ensuring that all ingredients are timeously ordered, supervising and motivating the intermediate and junior students on their team, as well as producing, plating and costing the entire meal.