NELSON Mandela Bay’s new culinary school has been open for five months and its pupils are already preparing to take up opportunities at top hotels and restaurants abroad.
The South African Academy of Culinary Arts (Saaca), the brainchild of accomplished chef Ralph Gottschalk, said his first intake of pupils were gaining experience at top establishments like Ginger Restaurant, the Radisson Blu Hotel and St Francis Links.
Gottschalk, who has been based in Port Elizabeth for the past few years where he has started his Pastryworks franchise, has cooked for Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and Tom Cruise during his long and illustrious career.
“Our first intake of pupils will complete the course at the end of January next year and then we will take in our next pupils. We hope to have 10 chef students and 10 pastry students because our staff to teacher ratio is very important,” he said.
Gottschalk said he had used his connections abroad to secure top placements to gain international experience.
“They can choose to go or they can remain in PE and work here. If they go abroad they receive accommodation and a small stipend but the experience is the most important thing. I want these students to succeed and become the great chefs they can be.”
Some of the students will be placed at restaurants and hotels in Shanghai in China, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Koh Samui in Thailand and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
Jacques du Plessis, 23, of Fernglen, will be one of the first pupils at the school to work in a kitchen abroad when he starts a six-week stint at the renowned Puli Hotel and Spa in Shanghai. He will leave at the end of November and return in January.
“I did not expect that something like this would come about so soon, but it is my dream. I am definitely looking forward to it and my plan is to work abroad for the next 15 years.
“I love the idea of creating something out of nothing and seeing people enjoy it. I studied BSc at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University but that was just to please my parents. Now I am having so much fun learning new things in the kitchen,” he said.
Caitlynne Juta, 18, of Theescombe, said she enrolled at Saaca after matriculating.
“I always bake at home but towards the middle of last year I was unsure of what I was going to do, until I came across this course. It is so wonderful because we learn something new every day and I enjoy everything we do,” she said.