Top chef school for Bay

Lee-Anne Butler

NELSON Mandela Bay will soon be able to produce its very own world-class chefs and confectioners with the opening of a new culinary school next year at the hands of the man whose dessert was a favourite of Oprah Winfrey.

Accomplished international chef Ralph Gottschalk, who owns and runs The Pastryworks in Port Elizabeth, said he would be realising a life-long dream by opening the school in January.

Ralph’s Free Recipe

450g butter, melted
450g sugar
90g water
1tsp salt
15g vanilla extract
680g dark chocolate compound or dark tempered couverture for coating
450g pecans, toasted, chopped, salted

1. Combine the butter, sugar, water and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
2. Cook over medium heat, while stirring all the time.
3. Add vanilla extract off the heat. Stir in well.
4. Pour mixture on to silicone sheet or silicone paper. Spread quickly to the edges before the toffee sets.
5. Allow to cool completely. Wipe the toffee with a towel to remove any excess oil off the surface.
6. Coat one side with half of the chocolate, sprinkle with half of the salted toasted nuts.
7. When the chocolate sets, turn the toffee over and repeat on the other side.
8. Break into desired size pieces.
9. Store away from heat and humidity.
Variation: add 15g coffee extract at the end of cooking. Coat toffee with milk chocolate and use salted macadamia nuts in place of the pecans.

Gottschalk, who has cooked for Nelson Mandela, Winfrey, Bill Clinton and Tom Cruise during the course of his long and illustrious career, said the school would initially take 20 students – 10 in the culinary section and 10 in the confectionery section – grooming them into world-class chefs over 18 months.


“Most schools want to microwave careers for their students [quick fix courses]. You cannot learn all you need to know after six months of night classes three times a week.

“If you want to survive in the industry you need extensive knowledge and on-the-job training,” he said.

Gottschalk has made a successful business out of his talents in the kitchen. He is a world-renowned pastry chef, having worked in top restaurants and hotel chains across the globe.

“We are applying to an international school for accreditation for our school, as well as to Seta [Sector Education and Training Authority] in order to become assessors and moderators.

“We are also putting the curriculum together, along with experts … such as dieticians and nutritionists.”

The school, which may be named the Eastern Cape Centre of Culinary Arts, will offer an extensive curriculum, including food safety, food hygiene, fire safety and first aid.

Gottschalk has hired South African chef Nicole Thompson as a culinary lecturer. Originally from East London, Thompson worked overseas as a chef before returning home in 2009.

She has since relocated to the Bay where she worked at Ginger restaurant on the beachfront. She has also opened Five Elements restaurant in St Francis Bay, which was voted the best restaurant in the province by the Eastern Cape Tourism Board.

Cooking and theory lessons will take place at a fully equipped kitchen Gottschalk has built on his property in Fernglen. “Part of the training our students will undergo includes three to five months of on-the-job training at five-star hotels and restaurants in the country.

“After they complete their training we will work towards giving them that jump start into the industry by organising placement for the first three to six months of their career.”

Once completed, students will obtain a professional diploma in culinary arts or a professional diploma in confectionery arts.

He said chefs already working in the industry could also benefit from short courses at the school which would be offered by visiting international chefs.

Gottschalk, who also runs a consultancy business and two bakeries, said students did not need to have cooking experience, as long as they had passion.

“I am not going to send a student abroad to work if they are not ready.

“Students need to be professional from day one. It is not all glamorous. It can be very tough, but if you work hard you can succeed,” he said.

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