Culinary school: A week in the life of our chef students

It’s been a hectic week at our culinary school – 1000 Hills Chef School. From 29 June to 6 July our students have been on the go non-stop. While a chef’s life is filled to the brim from morning until well into the night, student life isn’t usually as manic. Our culinary school is a fitting introduction of what’s to come – offering a taster of how fast-paced life can be. There is nothing like practice to get you ready for the go-go-go world of this industry. Students have been particularly busy this last week. From guest lecturers to mountains of food prep, the school has been bustling with activity. Do you want to step into our student’s chef shoes? Keep reading for a sample of a week in the life of our young chefs.

Day 1: Chef Roger visits our culinary school

The week started off with a bang. One of our favourite guest lecturers, Chef Watchara Sirvajanakul, more affectionately known as Chef Roger, joined us for our annual sushi course. Born in Bangkok and trained in the traditional Japanese style of cooking, Chef Roger was one of the first to bring sushi to Durban. With some 30 years of culinary experience under his belt, he opened the Green Mango in 2005. There are now two branches serving traditional Japanese and Thai cuisine and of course his famous sushi.

Chef Roger has been training 1000 Hills Chef School students since 2005. There is so much to learn, and our students are privileged to learn the fine art of sushi from such an incredible inspiration. The picture above is the winning group after their final practical assignment, and below another of the final plates – a very close second.

Day 2: Food and wine pairing with Kelsey

From hand rolls to full-bodied merlots – the students were visited by Kelsey Fisher from Meander Fine Wines. Kelsey has worked with 1000 Hills Chef School since 2015 and gave the students an introduction to food and wine pairing.

As a representative for suppliers of South Africa’s fine wines, Kelsey sheds some light on the wines our learners will encounter at leading South African restaurants. Not only is she a passionate wine enthusiast, but she found her way into this delightful industry by working as a server for several years. Her customer service insight is a great bonus for our students earning their Food and Beverage Service Diploma. Kelsey pointed out the fundamental characteristics of popular wine varietals and styles, some South African specialties and let students in on the secret of why red wine works so well with the braai.

Day 3: A culinary school and a brewery too

Here at 1000 Hills Chef School, we don’t stop at wine. Our culinary school has a full working brewery – 1000 Hills Brewing Co. All our second years complete a beer brewing course as part of their Advanced Diploma programme. Our senior students have great fun learning the theory of beer brewing and then putting it into practice. Not only do our students develop their own recipes, but they brew them too.

In fact, this last week saw our senior students delving into the brewing process. It’s a fantastic opportunity for our students to broaden their knowledge and explore the craft of brewing. Watch this space for more on the only private tertiary institution that is invited to participate in the annual SAB Intervarsity Brewing Competition.

Day 4: A fine dining Gourmet Evening

As part of the learning experience, 1000 Hills Chef School hosts a Gourmet Evening once a month. The first year Foundation Programme students cater the entire event, from food preparation to serving our guests. Our monthly night of fine dining happened to fall within this exciting week, keeping our students on their toes.

They divide into three teams to host this popular event. One group cooks an amuse bouche teaser and four mouthwatering courses. Another bakes a delectable dessert and prepares a farewell friandise. And the final team is in charge of setting up and serving the guests both food and wine. It’s an all-around practical experience for our students. Their fabulous food and service draw in the crowds. Many regular guests bring their out of town visitors to enjoy a special dinner at our culinary school.  Above you can see tables being set for fine dining, while below Chef Shaista teaches a smoking technique, adding cherry smoke flavour to chocolate mousse.

Day 5: A delightful buffet lunch

Guests aren’t the only ones to enjoy the scrumptious dishes prepared by our students. They also get a chance to indulge. Practical, hands-on training is the foundation of our curriculum. Students gain valuable experience with a la carte menus working in the school’s Yes Chef Deli, and table d’hote menus during Gourmet dinners.

During school hours they gain exposure to different kinds of preparation and service often encountered in the industry. This week, they had a lot of fun learning what goes into preparing a buffet lunch. Once all the hard work was over, the students got to sit down and enjoy the fruits of their labour.  

Day 6: Meeting Deirdre from Chateaux Gateaux

There was great excitement this week, as Deidre from Chateaux Gateaux visited our culinary school. A trained chef herself, Deidre spoke about the wide range of career and business opportunities out there for our young chefs. Chateaux Gateaux is the perfect example. This proudly South African company has been in business for almost twenty years. All their desserts and cakes are made from scratch, using top quality ingredients. Not only do they stock decadent cakes at their stores, but the company also supplies desserts to restaurants all over the country (and some neighbouring countries as well).

Deidre also showcased the new range of eco-friendly packaging, highlighting the importance of sustainability and protecting the planet. Last, but not least, Deidre spoiled the students with some samples of their delicious cakes. The students were challenged to create their own using a chocolate sponge base and Chateaux Gateaux chocolate. The students had a ball and let their creativity run wild. The winning team each scored a voucher for two to the nearest Chateaux Gateaux patisserie.

Day 7: Rounding off with our Excellence Award winners

We topped off the week with some well-earned recognition. At 1000 Hills Chef School, we honour students with coveted Excellence Awards, only if they have performed exceedingly well. Students must continuously strive for excellence, be motivated team players and show both dedication and loyalty. And above all, they must reflect a positive attitude.

Two students stood out with their impeccable work ethic and enthusiasm – not just during this crazy week at culinary school, but consistently since the beginning of this year. Both Leandre Venter, a Foundation first-year student, and Calvin Mbhense, a Professional Chef second-year student, achieved Excellence Awards. Well done!

Are you exhausted or inspired after walking a week in our chef student shoes? Do you think you have what it takes to become a top chef? Begin your cheffing career at our culinary school. Enrol at 1000 Hills Chef School today.