Tag Archives: cooking school

Cooking Up a Storm at Singita Kruger National Park

May 14, 2015 - Community Development,Cuisine,Did You Know?,Kruger National Park,Singita Lebombo Lodge

From the outside, it’s not much to look at: a nondescript building in the heart of the Singita Kruger National Park staff village. Take a step closer and the sound of pots clattering on iron stovetops breaks the bushveld silence. A babble of chatter and laughter wafts out across the dusty courtyard, as a flash of chef’s whites whips past the screen door. Welcome, to the Singita School of Cooking (SSC).

Singita School of Cooking

Students at the SSC with Chef Skills Developer, Louis Vandewalle

A cooking school in the wilderness may seem something of an anomaly, but there’s a good reason the stockpots are boiling furiously out here in the Kruger bushveld. “Communities and conservation can’t function independently, they have to co-exist,” explains Louis Vandewalle, Chef Skills Developer at SSC. “The idea behind the Singita School of Cooking was two-fold: to increase the skill level in our lodge kitchens, but also to provide opportunities for the surrounding communities.”

Singita Lebombo Lodge Dining Area

The dining area at Singita Lebombo Lodge

The SSC opened its doors in 2007, and today offers an intensive 12-month curriculum that sees nine students drawn from local communities untying their brand-new knife-rolls in March each year. A multi-faceted training program combines theory components completed in the classroom and online, alongside intensive practical training in the dedicated SSC kitchens.

Singita School of Cooking

If the course is testing, making it through the selection process is even tougher. In 2014 the School had 85 applicants for just nine places. After interviews by Singita lodge staff and chefs, 30 hopefuls were shortlisted and put through their paces in a series of theory and practical tests. “It’s not about their skills in the kitchen,” says Vandewalle. “We focus on character and attitude. We want to make sure that they have the right foundation for us to build their kitchen skills on. And, most importantly, we want to ensure that those who join the programme will stay the course.”

Singita School of Cooking

Aside from occasional government grants the School is funded entirely by Singita: an investment of $7500-$8000 per student that covers uniforms, equipment, ingredients and a monthly stipend. After months of training, real-world experience is gained in the kitchens of Singita Lebombo Lodge with students rotating through pastry, cold section and hot kitchen. At the end of the 12-month course, students emerge as competent commis chefs.

Singita School of Cooking

Singita School of Cooking

“Unlike many chef schools with longer programs, we focus on the fundamentals,” says Vandewalle, as a stockpot bubbles on the central range. “By the time they leave this kitchen our students have a limited set of skills, but they are extremely proficient at what they do. We’re trying to develop work skills and work ethics too.” He goes on to explain how time-management and forward planning are vital skills for the young chefs to learn. “Each day one chef is appointed to be in charge of the kitchen. The responsibility then rests on them to allocate tasks to each of the student chefs, work out portions and run the kitchen.”

Singita School of Cooking

“We have a very high success rate with students finding employment, either with Singita lodges or further afield,” adds Vandewalle. “Because of Singita’s extremely high standards, we find that’s more than sufficient for what other lodges and guesthouses are expecting.” For most students though, a position in one of the Singita kitchens is first prize.

Singita School of Cooking

“I’ve always wanted to be in the kitchen, but just never had the opportunity,” bubbles Unity Mokhomolo (25) from the village of Welverdiend, who says she’s happiest in the pastry section. “After the course I am hoping to be one of the students that Singita takes to work at the lodges. Singita started my career in the kitchen, so I want to work for them. If that happens, I will grab that opportunity with both hands.”

DISCOVER MORE:

The Singita School of Cooking was established to encourage the development of culinary skills and employment opportunities among local youth as part of Singita’s broader objective to assist communities to thrive, both economically and socially. Visit our website to find out how you can help to make a difference in the lives of our students at SSC, or read about some of our star pupils on the blog.

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Turning up the Heat

July 02, 2012 - Community Development,Cuisine,Events,Kruger National Park

The excitement at Singita Kruger National Park has been contagious this week.  What’s been causing the stir?  Lucien Green.

Visiting from Jamie Oliver’s “Fifteen” Apprentice Programme in London, Lucien Green (Senior Training and Development Chef)  has hailed an energy at the Singita School of Cooking like never before.  Each day has been jam-packed with activities, revving up from one day to the next.

Day One – the Singita team whisked Lucien out into the bush to look for lions.

Day Two – stepping into the kitchen at the Singita School of Cooking for the first time, Lucien observed students elbow-deep in dough and perfecting their focaccia-making skills.

Day Three – Lucien took some time out to review curriculum.  He gave the cooking school a thumbs-up!

Day Four – this was a special day – it was marked as the official opening of the Singita School of Cooking.  Mark Witney, Singita’s Chief Operating Officer was also present for the honours.

Day Five – then it was back to the kitchen.  Lucien conducted a day of teaching, introduced the students to carpaccio for the first time, and iniated a competition to see who could produce some winning results. For the competition the students were split into teams and over two days they’ll compete for the top prize.  It is going to be a gruelling, fast-paced stretch.  Stay tuned!

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Graduation Day at Singita School of Cooking

April 18, 2012 - Community Development,Events

It was a proud day last week when students graduated from the Singita School of Cooking 18 month training programme in the Kruger National Park.  Well qualified to apply for a Commis Chef position in a professional kitchen at a Singita lodge, or any other safari lodge or hotel, six enthusiastic students now head out to take kitchens in the area by storm.

Chef Skills Developer at the Singita School of Cooking, Oriel Mbowane, himself previously a Sous Chef at Singita Sweni, was actively involved in the Graduation activities and is pleased with the student successes achieved at the school.

What distinguishes this school from similar training institutions, is the opportunity it offers for trainee chefs to practise their craft in the kitchens of Singita’s award-winning lodges. Students during the programme were supported by professional chefs employed at Singita who voluntarily shared their culinary and service expertise with the young talent.

Caroline Burke, General Manager Singita Kruger National Park says: ‘In remote, rural areas equipping even one person with a good job and sound prospects, has a burgeoning effect on members of their immediate family, as well as the broader community. Besides providing a much-needed income, these young people also provide inspiration, energy and leadership to their peers in under-developed areas’.

The school is a living example of Singita’s inspiring approach to ‘giving back’ at each of its 10 different lodges in four destinations in Africa, and of its modern conservation model that recognizes the need for a finely tuned relationship between wildlife, tourism and local communities.

We’re looking forward to the next intake of students – the fifth intake at the school – to commence their training as budding chefs this month.  Follow this space.

Further information on how you can become involved in this exciting community development programme can also be obtained from Pam Richardson, the Singita’s Group HR and Community Development Manager:  Pam.r@singita.com.

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