In the years since the Singita School of Cooking (SSC) opened in 2007, the programme has successfully placed nearly 50 chefs into positions at Singita, as well as the other lodges in the Kruger Park region. The students’ level of expertise upon completion of the course is widely recognised, and a fresh new group of graduates has recently earned their NQF Level 4 Certificate in Professional Cookery.
The rigorous 12-month course is offered to a small number of students from local communities, and combines theory components, completed in the classroom and online, with intensive practical training in the SSC and lodge kitchens. Their class work also focuses on developing skills such as professionalism, customer service and effective communication. If the course is testing, making it through the selection process is even tougher; in 2015 the school had 150 applicants for just nine positions.
The school is located in the staff village in the far Eastern part of the Kruger National Park, which serves both Singita Lebombo and Singita Sweni Lodges. The students spend most of their time in the staff kitchen where each day they prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner for the approximately 120 individuals working for Singita. At the end of their training, these chefs are able to enter a professional kitchen and work at the level of a junior chef, having a good foundation of the basic skills necessary to function in this role.
The seventh and most recent class graduated a few weeks ago, and of the nine students, eight have already secured employment. The two top students, Unity Mokhomolo and Dzunisane Mnisi, have both been offered positions at Singita Kruger National Park, and the school itself received recognition this year in the form of the Trialogue Award. This accolade shines a light on projects in South Africa that exemplify best practice in strategic corporate social investment; something Singita is very proud to contribute towards.
Supporting local communities through development initiatives that help to feed and educate the families that live in and around Singita’s properties in turn allows us to preserve the integrity of these wilderness areas and their wildlife. As Louis Vandewalle, Chief Skills Developer at the SSC says: “Communities and conservation can’t function independently; they have to co-exist. The idea behind this school was two-fold: to increase the skills levels in our lodge kitchens, but also to provide opportunities for the surrounding communities.”
The SSC makes a real difference to the lives of each student and their families, by teaching these young people a lifelong skill that will provide an income to help support their immediate relatives as well as the wider community. The effect is social upliftment through inspiration and leadership, a thriving community and a new generation of skilled young people.
Singita School of Cooking Class of 2016
Singita’s Community Development projects in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, have 4 main objectives: well educated children; the development of small enterprises; assisting government in its effort to provide clean drinking water; and an enhanced awareness of conservation and sustainable daily living practices among local community members. You can find out more on our website.