June 2022

Rising stars – the Singita Community Culinary School's class of 2022

in Experience

Rising stars – the Singita Community Culinary School's class of 2022

Nothing represents the idea of community better than food. Food brings people together – it symbolises warmth, connection, nourishment, sharing. And at Singita, it plays a big role in our guest experience. Over the years though, our culinary concept has come to mean so much more than just beautiful meals. The first Singita Community Culinary School (SCCS) opened its doors in 2007 at Singita Kruger National Park as a means of providing a launchpad for talented individuals with a desire to enter the hospitality profession – allowing them to emerge with strong employment prospects and build promising careers.

As one of our most successful community programmes, it offers young adults from neighbouring communities the opportunity to acquire an internationally recognised World Chefs qualification. The year-long Singita-crafted chef-development course, culminates in the students graduating as qualified commis chefs with sought-after skills and valuable real-world experience.

It’s only fitting that as we mark South Africa’s official Youth Day, 16 June, we acknowledge the importance of empowering young talent – and so we recognise the accomplishments and hard work of the class of 2022, who graduate this week.

Despite the various hurdles in their path, the 2022 class of the Singita Community Culinary School in South Africa has risen to the challenge and proved an impressive group

Growing through learning

Thys Taljaard, Chef Skills Developer for the SCCS, based at Singita Kruger National Park, has steered this group through a year of learning and is immensely proud of their achievements. “As a Skills Developer, the most rewarding aspect of the one-year scholarship is to witness the transformation in each student. There’s a huge metamorphosis that happens in just a year – not just in their aptitude, but also in the interaction they have with the Singita community,” he says.

This in the face of personal challenges as well as circumstances outside of their control – and the programme has seen its fair share of pandemic-induced hurdles. The previous year’s class had to revert to online classes (with some students facing limited connectivity at their residences) and a whirlwind final revision, where Thys had to wrap up the lost time in just three weeks. “It put extreme pressure on all of us. I cried when their final results came in and all the students had passed,” he says.

This year’s class has also had a unique journey, living on the property at Singita Kruger National Park for the duration of their course – a decision made to cut down risk and travelling due to Covid. “When it was decided that they all move onto the property, I was prepared for some ‘sibling’ rivalry and personality clashes, but they got on so well and formed close bonds. I’m sure this group will be in contact for a long time,” he says.

Thys Taljaard, Skills Developer for the SCCS, describes the school in South Africa's class of 2022 as easygoing, academic and hardworking

Individual students, collective spirit

Thys has been particularly impressed with this group’s academic aptitude, in addition to their natural ability to connect: “They kept me on my toes with all their questions, and all six proved very early on in the programme that they were committed and focused. Their complementary personalities have made it a breeze to be their teacher for the year.”

It’s not just the teacher-student chemistry that makes this programme a success, but also the enthusiasm of guests who participate in the cooking classes available at our lodges at Singita Kruger National Park – offered as a way of learning new skills and seeing one of our projects in action. “The guests love having the interaction with the students and learning about their dreams and aspirations. And it also gives the students confidence to meet guests from different cultures and countries,” says Thys.

The interactive cooking classes guests can enjoy with the SCCS students teach them locally inspired dishes as well as showing firsthand the impact of one of our community programmes in action

Only the beginning

The SCCS is unquestionably a successful and sustainable programme – apparent in the many promising careers and placements that our graduates have earned over the years. “The Singita family can be very proud of being part of something that makes such a difference to people’s lives. If you educate one person, many benefit and this is certainly true for the SCCS – its impact has a ripple effect,” says Thys.

The third Singita Community Culinary School opened recently in Rwanda (the second was established in Singita Grumeti in Tanzania in 2016) – against all odds during the pandemic – demonstrating that there is no limit to what can be made possible for the culinary-minded youth of Africa with enough support. “Our team is passionate and unstoppable. We are expanding and very proud to be doing so,” says Thys.

From one school in 2007, to three today across SA, Tanzania and Rwanda, the Singita Community Culinary School has the potential to create lasting and meaningful change in the career paths of many

Help tomorrow's chefs realise their goals

Learn more about this inspiring career development platform, and how you can support a student in pursuing their dreams here >

Julia Freemantle
By Julia Freemantle

Related Stories

March 2024

Ride the Serengeti – the inaugural Wagora MTB