CHOOSING THE RIGHT CULINARY SCHOOL
Ask 3 Questions, Who, Where, How……..
If you are planning to study to become a chef, pastry chef or maybe both, then please take your time and read through the following. I am sure it will help you to decide to which school you want to go to, and it will help you to ask the important questions. I am also not writing this to tell you how wonderful we are, I am writing this to make sure that the first decision you make will be the right one for you.
A super fancy webpage, a full colour brochure, chef jackets with 12 embroidered logos and other visuals attract, I agree, but it should be on the bottom of your list in regards to choosing which school is right for you.
Ask who is going to teach me. Who is this person, in short, how much does this person who is going to prepare me for the culinary world has to give to me. Experience, stories, passion……ask that you would like to know where that chef has worked before and for how long. When arriving in South Africa I ask around to do some research, and many schools had chefs teaching, who themselves took the same course just a few years, 2-3 earlier. Imagine to learn from a chef who only has 3 years of experience. Even 5 or even 10 is not very much as there is so much to be learned.
WHERE WILL WE BE LEARNING?
I once employed a girl who just spend 150,000.00 Rand for a Culinary Master Diploma. On the first day I asked her to make buttercream. 5 minutes later I watched her with a large stainless steel bowl and a large whisk to cream butter by hand. Why don’t you use the mixer I asked. Sorry, in the school where I leaned they only had 1 mixer for 16 students, I never used is, just watched the chef working on it. I had to let her go the next day, as she would have needed training from scratch, but she wanted me to pay her. Ask for your money back I told her.
Ask the school to show you the stoves, pots and pans. Ask them if they have ice cream machines, chocolate temper machines, sous-vide. If you going to learn to work with electric gas and induction. If you will be cooking on household ovens or if you will also have the chance to be trained on industrial equipment, for example for pastry, will you be able to learn how to use a large dough sheeter, how to bake in a large injection steam oven? You don’t want to start to work at your first job and say every 2 minutes, Sorry, don’t know how that works…….
Bottom line is that the culinary schools in South Africa should be well equipped.
Imagine your dream is to become a professional chef, you paid quite some substantial money, and the school is sending you to the Spar around the corner where you will be cutting for 4 weeks straight the cabbage into julienne for the coleslaw or you end up at a fast food place to drop for 4 weeks the chips into the oil and flip greasy burgers. All of this has and is happening, so be careful.
Part of your training should be an internship, you first real experience in a real restaurant, hotel. The first time you will see what life really is going to be. The goal is for you to find out if this is really something you really want. It is not possible for you to find your passion by doing an internship in a Spar or Burger Joint. This would be just waste of time. So do ask, where you will be doing your internship, do your homework. Ask to be able to ask other students who have worked there before, or ask around. We here at SAACA sending, or at least try to send our students overseas for 2 month as well. I just find it most important for the young chef to see a real 5 star hotel and to come home to count the days before she or he can leave again.
In the past 2 years many of our students had the chance to go overseas, and many of them where offered jobs during their internships. Shangri –La Hotel in London, Gordon Ramsay at The Savoy, JW Marquis Dubai, Ritz-Carlton Oman, Anantara Resort Abu Dhabi, just a few of the hotels where past students of SAACA are today.
WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO TEACH ME?
This is probably the most important point. During the time of our study you will be given the knowledge and tools to build a strong foundation. When I made my research in regards to accreditation, I came across curriculums which are really bottom basic. Yes you would pass the test, but is this what you want or need. We here at SAACA teach you to succeed in the very competitive culinary world, we do not teach you so that you can pass a test. Nobody is really interested in this. Your most important job will be your first one. That job you will want to keep for at least a year, the first step. We have written a curriculum where we know as professional chefs with the international experience, that this is what you need t know to be successful.
We use international study books, study guides with student access to the internet portal to learn online in their spare time and to follow up on what was taught.
We use outside professionals to teach food safety, first aid and personal safety
That’s why I believe our curriculum is more detailed than any other I have seen, and together with the opportunity to maybe go overseas for an internship, the foundation has been created for you to start a successful career.
If you choose our school SAACA or any other school. Please remember to ask about the above, Compare and make an educated decision, it might be the most important one you will ever make.
Whatever that decision might be, I wish you all the very best, learn, work hard, be humble, never burn bridges, show respect and enjoy the ride.
Chef & Owner
South African Academy of Culinary Arts