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Best cooking schools: how to choose and what to look for

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Are you a food lover and ready to take on the next step to choosing your study options? You’ve come to the right place. As an internationally accredited culinary school, we want to help you on your path to discovering the best cooking schools for your needs. We’ve gathered a checklist of points for you to consider (and of course added why we may be a fit for you). Get excited and read on to learn what you need to look for. 


The ingredients to successful studies and beyond

When it comes to nailing down the best cooking schools, it translates to what is the best for you. Sure, there are countless study options and tertiary courses out there, but they are all designed to suit different interests, personalities, and career paths. But if you have taken some time to whittle your choices down to the culinary arts, congratulations! We fully support you in joining the world of cuisines. And of course, all culinary arts start with the right course as the first step on the chef ladder. 

School search checklist

We created a step by step checklist of factors to consider when exploring the best cooking schools in order to make your decision.

1. Begin with asking yourself questions

Who are you? And what are your needs? And why do you want to study? 

So often people launch into a frenzy of school searches to appease parents or peers without thinking of how it will benefit their interests and future. When considering studying, it provides an opportunity to do some soul searching. 

Engage in career guidance opportunities to expose yourself to possibilities you would never have considered previously. You may encounter a field and cool roles you never knew existed. Perhaps you are interested in cooking, but you might discover a whole new world of entrepreneurship and want to develop restaurants. Or geek out on combining technology and food innovation. Whatever it may be that sparks the flame to your crème brûlée, allow yourself some time to navigate the possibilities before you settle on a final course. (Side note — you can always go back and study if you change your mind. Never feel bad if you realise your passions and calling evolved).

2. Align your interests with your preferred study methods

Various schools have a particular way in which they operate. Some are designed for exclusively remote part-time study. Others present a traditional teaching method of full-time lectures and assignments, with exams at the end of terms. And there can be combinations of ways the materials are taught practically. This is essential for trade jobs and hands-on work like the medical field, clothes design, floristry and culinary arts. Once you are aware of your interests and study preferences, you can make an educated decision on the tertiary institutions you want to pursue.

At 1000 Hills Chef School, we offer two years of full-time comprehensive culinary courses to immerse you in vigorous hands-on industry training. If that sounds appealing to you, read more about our student experiences in our blog!

3. Next, institutions 

When it comes to considering institutes, look at all the important factors. These include the courses offered and the size of the institution (if you prefer smaller class sizes or want to have the full campus experience). Then, also look at the resources available (student centre, accommodation, facilities and features that will assist you in your study experience). Consider what qualification they will provide, where they are recognised and how if the school will assist you in finding employment. 

Also, make sure you have a good look at how long the course and supplementary courses are. Perhaps you want to start with a basic foundational course and then add on speciality training. These all need to be factored into your bigger picture of what you are investing your time and yourself into.

We offer small lecturer to student classes, with great facilities and accommodation. Not to mention our hall of fame of culinary awards since 2006. Some food for thought.

4. Last, but not least — the logistics

While one can envision a study experience at their school of choice, there will need to be a time set aside for breaking down how it will happen. These translate to the nitty-gritties like transportation. Will you need to fly there, or commute daily? And then the obvious — funding. Those who have the capacity and backing of funders (ie. willing family members or a gracious donor) will have those options. But for those of us who will need the extra financial assistance, we created a guide to student loans

Never be shy to ask about assistance when it comes to studying. There are resources out there like bursaries and programmes to help very capable learners achieve great things.

Get out there and discover you, your calling and your school

We wish you the best in choosing your top pick amongst the best cooking schools. For more information on how the 1000 Hills Chef School operates and our offerings, contact us. We love to talk about the culinary industry and how we can get you ready to meet it head-on.

1000 Hills Chef School’s successful graduates: A winning attitude!

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Since the 1000 Hills Chef School was established, we have trained hundreds of young chefs to go out into the industry and be the best they can be. Many of these young culinary artists are now working in top class restaurants around the globe and have been awarded some prestigious accolades.

1000 Hills Chef School successful graduates

Our young chefs have proven their talents and skills all over the world – not just in restaurant kitchens, but also in highly contested competitions. We encourage our students to compete in these culinary competitions because the intense test of top competition proves what fine chefs are made of, showing how they cope with the high-pressure demands of the industry.

Our student chefs have made it to the finals of the Unilever Chef of the Year competition, arguably the country’s most prestigious culinary competition, every year since 2006. Our students have placed many times and taken the win eight times! Other national competitions have also brought a string of successes to our students, who build on their skills and experience each time they participate. Let’s take a look at where some of our most successful graduates are today:

Where are they now:

The talented Christo Pretorius always had a love for food, even as a small boy growing up in Vryheid in Kwazulu-Natal. He started off as Commis Chef at a holiday resort in the UK. In 2007, Christo returned to South Africa, where he completed his Chef and Pastry Diplomas at the 1000 Hills Chef School and went on to win the title of Unilever Junior Chef of the Year as well as Goldcrest Young Chef of the Year. Today, he is creating admirable culinary art as the Executive Head Chef at the 5-star Azure Restaurant at Twelve Apostles, Cape Town.

1000 Hills Chef School successful graduates

Christo’s peer, Kevin Bonus, graduated from 1000 Hills Chef School in 2007 and went straight on to achieve great things from there! After winning Junior Chef of the Year in 2006, Kevin took his love for food abroad to Scotland. From there, Kevin worked his way up from a line chef position at Pied á Terre, a two-Michelin-star restaurant in London. He is now wearing the title of Senior Sous Chef, under the wing of great British chef, Marcus Eaves.

1000 Hills Chef School successful graduates

Our very own Principal, Chef Jade Benians, is a graduate of 1000 Hills Chef School herself and South Africa’s Senior Chef of the Year 2015. Jade holds numerous culinary awards and worked in Australia and Scotland after achieving her qualifications at the school.

1000 Hills Chef School successful graduates

Chef Jade now leads a team of skilled chef lecturers at the 1000 Hills Chef School, where she shares her love of food and the creative art of cooking with the students. Under her tutelage, several students have achieved national titles in culinary competitions, including first, second AND third at the Junior Chef of the Year competition in 2016 – an unprecedented achievement.

Kayla Ann Osborn also trained at 1000 Hills Chef School. Kayla admits it was tough and intensive training but explains that the school doesn’t expect anything less than the best! Kayla worked as Head Chef at a fine dining establishment in Pietermaritzburg after graduating. She had made it to finals of both the Unilever Junior Chef of the Year and American Express Platinum Restaurant awards. Kayla is now the Executive Chef at the trendy Chef’s Table, a popular restaurant in Umhlanga.

1000 Hills Chef School successful graduates

The Unilever Junior Chef of the Year competition has been a proving ground for many top chefs in SA, and the competition has set many a culinary career in motion. In 2016, 1000 Hills Chef School took all three title places! Pictured is Aaron Subroyal, the first runner-up, Richard Ellis, the winner and Amarae Vercuiel, the second runner-up. Each of these talents have started their careers across the globe. Aaron is currently in San Francisco at Chef Michael Mina’s Michelin Star restaurant. Amerae is now a food editor in the lovely city of Cape Town.

Richard took back-to-back Unilever titles in 2015 and 2016. He won Canapes division in 2015, competing against seasoned professionals, and took the SA Junior Chef of Year title in 2016. He is using his talents at Yauatcha in Soho, London, also a Michelin Star restaurant, where is he is working with another 1000 Hills Chef School graduate, the gifted Christy Guthrie (Class of  2007), Pastry Sous Chef at this renowned establishment.

And finally, our most recent award-winner, Nhlakanipho “Sgazo” Ngubane, took home the title of the Huletts Sweet Young Chef of 2017. As the only young man competing against three young ladies, Sgazo was proud to be selected for the finals of the coveted competition. Sgazo recognises his training, explaining that the industry-like environment and the amount of culinary knowledge learned while at 1000 Hills Chef School prepared him well for the competition. Read more about this achievement, here.

1000 Hills Chef School successful graduates

1000 Hills Chef School is proud of each and every one of their students’ achievements, whether they build a career name or simply create some of the finest food in the world. We believe the training received at our school can help aspiring chef’s hone their culinary and pastry skills and develop the “kitchen muscles” to take on the pressure of the culinary industry. We encourage our students to strive for excellence in everything they do, and always remind them that “Attitude is Everything!” These personal successes are proof that a winning attitude and determination to be your best will ensure you build a great culinary career on the foundation our training provides.


SAAGA Chef School Competition 2017 – 1000 Hills Chef School Does It Again!

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Nhlakanipho “Sgazo” Ngubane is the cream of the crop, having just taken the win in the South African Avocado Grower’s Association’s (SAAGA) Annual Culinary School Competition, hot on the heels of his recent win in the Huletts Sweet Young Chef of the Year award. He is joined by Matthew Burke, one of our first-year students, who took second place in this competition.

The “ILoveAvo’s” competition is a favourite with our students, and this year the challenge was set to create an avo burger, replacing the bread burger bun with an avocado. With almost 70 entries from culinary schools all around the country, the contest was a great motivator for all the participants, inspiring a great deal of extra research into burger trends, unique food flavours and even food photography.

The competition was open to public voting, with students encouraging friends and family to get involved and vote for their favourite. The top five “people’s choice” burgers then went through to the final round, where chefs recreated the student’s dishes from the recipes provided and finally, the ultimate taste test!

This is where Sgazo’s “Smoked chicken avocado burger, with horseradish cream, pickled red onions, cheddar cheese, gherkins and sliced tomato” took first prize. Served in an innovative way, with a hint of the hickory smoke under a glass dome, the entire burger was infused with flavour that gave it a “meaty” edge. Sgazo, who finished 4th in the competition last year, is thrilled with his win. He said the challenge of working within the burger bun parameters meant young chefs had to be really creative to stand out.

Matt’s double pork and beef patty, with aged cheddar, rocket, pineapple salsa (pineapple, red pepper, onion, coriander and cucumber) and a honey mustard dressing with chunky chips on the side.

Study Snack Ideas & Recipes for Matric Students

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Studying can be hard work, and you’ll need some brain fuel to get you through acing that exam! There is so much to learn and memorise, and as the stress piles up, many students reach for snacks that are often not only unhealthy, but not suitable choices for energy, concentration and boosting your brainpower! However satisfying they may be, here are healthy alternatives so you can stay alert, nourished and feeling great while studying.

Avo on Toast

When you’re working away at revising your notes, and you just need a little snack to keep you going, try toasting up a piece of seed-bread. Keep it simple and top it off with avocado, seasoned with fresh lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a twist of black pepper. There’s no better snack to keep you going as you study, study, study!

study snacks

Banana and peanut butter roll

Snack smart and study hard. That exam will be easy-peasy! Get excited about a classic-old combo: bananas and peanut butter. Bananas are a great energy booster, and when wrapped in tasty peanut butter put together in a wheat tortilla it makes for a study snack like no other.  

Vibrant veggie sticks

Need a quick and vitamin-filled nibble? There’s nothing simpler than chopping up some vegetables with some hummus dip to keep things interesting. To make your own hummus, you’ll need 1 tin of drained chickpeas, 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic, 10ml of fresh lemon juice, a generous teaspoon of crushed cumin, a teaspoon of sesame seed oil and a couple of pinches of salt. Blend together in a food processor, slowly adding a little olive oil to form a thick paste. Keep this study snack on hand for a go-to munch.

study snacks

Scrumptious smoothie

Have a long day of studying ahead of you? Start the morning right with an ultra-fast smoothie. Pop a banana, a tablespoon of peanut butter, a squirt of honey and half a cup of milk into a blender and there you go! Drink as you study to keep you focused for longer.

Whip up a dip

While your brain is working overtime, you may experience some sweet cravings. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a greek yogurt, peanut butter, and honey dip – it’s good enough to eat on its own, or you can even pair it with some fruit!

Trail mix tricks

Fuel your brain with an easy trail mix. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Mix 3 tablespoons of melted butter, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a ¼ teaspoon of salt in a large bowl. Add 1½ cups of dried pumpkin seeds and toss to coat. Spread out in a baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of white sugar over the seeds for an extra brain-boost.  

A motivating moment

Struggling with a particularly tough subject? Boost your spirits with a yummy hot chocolate, rich in antioxidants! Heat ½ cup of coconut milk over medium heat until hot but not quite boiling. Add ½ cup of hot water, a generous teaspoon of good quality cocoa powder and a teaspoon of honey to taste. Whisk to combine. Pour into your favourite mug, top with yummy marshmallows or grab a brownie to enjoy a mellow moment.

study snacks

Yogurt-covered blueberry bites

Blueberries covered in greek yogurt and frozen! A great healthy snack to have around when craving sweets, without feeling guilty is the simple, yet oh-so tasty yogurt-covered blueberry. Just coat a few blueberries in vanilla or plain yogurt and pop them into the freezer for later on!

Eat right, study hard and you’ll pass that exam with flying colours!

Study Tips for Matric Students

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The final year of school can be intimidating for matric students. There is so much to learn and so much to study – it almost feels like trying to eating an elephant! Studying is essential for students to achieve top results in your matric finals. It can be quite difficult to get into the routine of revision and that’s why we’ve put together a list of study tips to help you study, succeed, rinse and repeat. Let’s achieve your 2017 study goals!

Learning out loud

One of our favourite study tips is to learn out loud or to LOL, as we like to call it. Reading your notes to yourself and out loud can help improve memory when compared to silently scanning through your what you’ve written.

Take a nap – yes this is one of our study tips

It may sound counterproductive, but a daytime power nap can boost learning and memory. The trick is to have your study session, and then take a nap of 45 to 60 minutes. It’s like a little study reward for learning, and it will actually benefit you! Also make sure you get a good night’s sleep every night.

Doodles over daydreaming

We all love to doodle in some way when we have been listening to a teacher talk about the same thing for what seems like ages. This can actually be good for your studying strategy! Doodling can improve focus and memory by keeping the brain active instead of zoning out completely, like the doodler’s daydreaming counterpart.

 Make a study plan

Time is precious to any student preparing for exams. You don’t want to procrastinate until the night before to cram all the information in. By then, of course, it’s too late. The key to breaking the habit of cramming for tests is to think ahead and plan. Do this by creating an effective study plan. This method will help you get organised and make the most out of your limited time.

study tips

Take a break

It’s difficult enough to hit the books, but to stay focused is a whole other challenge. Give yourself time to recover after concentrating for a set amount of time. Take a break by going for a walk, a trip to the gym or make yourself a nice cup of coffee or tea. Regular short breaks boost focus and they can improve your productivity too! Just stay away from getting caught in front of the TV…

 Neaten up

Make space for your textbooks and notes to be able to spread out and be read easily. Make sure you have enough light and a comfortable chair. Think about what works best for you and take the time to get it right. You will be spending a lot of time here, after all, so you need to have a great environment to work in.

Explain your answers to others

This is one of our greatest study tips. Use your parents and little brothers and sisters, grandparents or anyone else who will listen, to your advantage during exam time. Have them listen to you explain answers to important revision questions you need to remember. The answer will become clear in your head, and will also highlight any areas where you need to spend more time.

Snack for brain power

What you eat can really have an impact on your energy levels and on your concentration. Keep your body and brain fueled by choosing nutritious foods over junk. Fish, nuts and blueberries have all been proven to aid memory. Include healthy foods in your exam day preparation as well.  Eat a good meal before, but stay away from sugar to avoid crashing halfway through your exam. Take a look at these study snack ideas and recipes for while you are studying. 

Get your heart rate up

Just twenty minutes of cardio can improve your information retention. So get up and get moving. Whether you’re dancing, going for a jog or taking part in your local spinning class, exercising and movement is sure to increase your energy and reduce your stress levels! This is incredibly important when it comes to studying.

Quench your thirst

The final of our study tips is to stay well hydrated! Hydration is essential for your brain to function at it’s best. So drink lots and lots of water throughout your revision and studying session, as well as on the day of your exam.

We wish you the best of luck for all of your exams ahead!

Huletts Sweet Young Chef of 2017: our own Nhlakanipho “Sgazo” Ngubane.

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Turning up the heat in 2017.

Each year, culinary students from around South Africa compete in the much anticipated Huletts Sweet Young Chef competition. Budding chefs are challenged to submit a divine dessert recipe, using several products from the Huletts range. This year’s winner is our very own talented Nhlakanipho “Sgazo” Ngubane!

Held in Johannesburg on 12 August, the 2017 competition was taken up a notch. Four finalists competed in a final cook-off at Infochef, the SACA (South African Chefs Association) annual networking event for young chefs. WACS (World Association of Chef Societies) and SACA-accredited judges to world standards judged the competition. Among three other young finalists, Sgazo had the great opportunity to showcase his winning dish. SACA judges watched as the young culinary artists prepared their dishes. With only two and a half hours to prepare the dishes, the pressure was on.

Chef Coo Pillay (Kitchen Judge and Executive Chef) had very positive feedback for Sgazo. An unfortunate mishap during the competition meant that a major component of his dessert was damaged, accidentally. In what Chef Coo described as the calmest response he has even seen in a competition, Sgazo simply collected his equipment, told everyone else not to worry, and re-made the panna cotta.

His 1000 Hills Chef School family is incredibly proud of Sgazo for his winning attitude and his well-deserved success. It is especially rewarding as his Advanced studies would not have been possible without the support of FNB Business Banking, who very kindly sponsored his ongoing studies and offered full bursaries to three other Advanced Diploma students. We are so grateful for their support in investing in young chefs’ dreams. You can see just how excited we were to hear the news here.

Our very own award-winning young chef.

As the only young man competing against three young ladies – travelling from Limpopo, Pretoria and Johannesburg respectively – Sgazo was proud to be selected for the finals of the coveted competition. Sgazo recognises his training, explaining that the industry-like environment and the amount of culinary knowledge learned while at 1000 Hills Chef School prepared him well for the competition.

Sgazo really tapped into his love and passion for food during this competition. The creative challenge of coming up with a dessert that truly showcased his skills in the kitchen had him in his element. The added pressure of competition was intense, but Sgazo looked at this pressure as practice for his future in the industry. He dreams of being a chef at top restaurants around the world and one day bringing his skills back to South Africa to set up his own restaurant.

Sgazo was accompanied by our Pastry Lecturer, Chef Shaista Anoop, who placed second in the Huletts competition in 2015. She was thrilled to see his progress and says he worked well under pressure.

Nicola van Warmelo, also an Advanced Diploma student at our school, won the competition in 2016, and we are very pleased to boast award-winning students in the culinary industry! Sgazo is a talented young chef and this is a fantastic reflection of his hard work and commitment to his craft. It takes dedication and long hours in the kitchen to reach these goals.

Tips to look after your knives

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• Store your knives correctly, separated from each other and away from other metals. A knife roll or knife block is a good option.
• Always cut on the correct surface. A polyurethane cutting board is best to keep your knives in a good condition. Wood, granite and steel tops will blunt your knife.
• Hone your knife every time you use it. You may sometimes need to hone the edge during use; e.g. when preparing fish.

How to safely hone your knife using a sharpening steel

1 Place a dishcloth on the counter to prevent slipping and hold the steel upright at a 90 ̊ angle to the counter top. (see image above)
2 Holding the knife in your dominant hand, take the heel of the blade (the part closest to the handle) and place at a 45 ̊ angle to the steel.
3 In a smooth, sweeping motion, swipe the edge of the blade from heel to tip down the steel, towards the counter. Repeat with the opposite side of the blade on the other side of the steel. Repeat steps about 5 times for each side of the blade.

Every few months you may need to sharpen your knife. You can do this on a wet stone.

To learn more, you can watch our video below:

Winners again at Unilever Chef of the Year!

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1000 Hills Chefs School has done it again, taking first, second and third place at the prestigious Unilever Chef of the Year competition. Junior Chef of the Year title was clinched by second year student Richard Ellis at the prestigious Unilever competition in Umhlanga last night. First runner-up is Aaron Subroyal and second runner-up is former classmate Amerae Vercueil.

Richard Ellis is thrilled with his win, saying he didn’t expect it and competition was close. He saw his seniors competing last year and says “I was in awe of them and inspired to compete this year, and really happy to come back and take the win.”

Subroyal too is really proud of himself, and was not sure he would place. He says “I can see that I have come a long way since starting out last year and I learned so much from Chef Jade and Chef Dixi.” Both Aaron’s father and grandmother are chefs and they were at the event last night and very pleased with his achievement.

Aaron says he feels he is taking his culinary heritage to the next level and this is validation for all his teachers.

Amerae Vercueil graduated in 2015 and has launched her own food blog, Ameroozle. She says the competition put her out of her comfort zone and stretched her creativity. Her third place has given her confidence and confirms she is pursuing the right career.

Senior Lecturer at 1000 Hills Chef School Chef Jade van der Spuy says she is extremely proud of all her students. “It is reaffirming to see their success and know that we are on the right track. We set out to equip our students with the skills they need to succeed in industry, and it is with the help of competitions like Unilever COTY that we can motivate and inspire them to be the best they can be.”

Chef Jade was one of six finalists in the Senior Chef of the Year competition, which was a very close contest with just 1% difference in scores separating all six places. She won the Senior Chef of the Year title in 2015, and previously won the Junior Chef of the Year title in 2011.

This fantastic achievement marks the 5th time a young chef from 1000 Hills Chefs School has won the Junior Chef of the Year title, and marks the second time we have claimed all three top places (the first time being in 2007).

Competition is hotting up …

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Things are heating up in kitchens at 1000 Hills Chefs School!

BRAVO AVOCADO – our First Year students have just taken top honours in the South African Avo Growers Association Chef School Challenge, earning ALL FIVE top places in this annual competition. This fun challenge marks the start of competition season as qualified chefs and those in training strive for top honours in South Africa’s biggest culinary challenges.

Pictured above are Keegan McVicar (5th), Leah James (2nd), Jack Lai (1st), Gabriella Meloni (3rd) and Sgazo Ngubane (4th).

avo plates, competition

Next up is the McCain’s Tribute to Good Taste challenge, taking place in Johannesburg on 31 August. Chef Jade van der Spuy, our Hot Kitchen Lecturer, is one of four finalists who will compete in the Professional category, while Nhlakanipho Ngubane, who finished fourth in the Avo challenge, was chosen to compete in the Students category.

coty jnr snr, competition

We’re thrilled to announce that no less than FOUR of the seven Junior finalists in this year’s Unilever Chef of the Year competition are graduates of 1000 Hills Chefs School. They join Chef Jade van der Spuy, current Senior Chef of the Year, who will defend her title against six top competitors from around the country at the finals in Umhlanga on 8th September. A win in the previous year is not an automatic in, and she has made it through a challenging mystery-basket cook-off in the regional semi-final to secure her place in next week’s final. As the youngest ever Senior Chef of the Year and the only woman to make it to the final round last year, she is aiming to be the first to win the prestigious contest two years in a row.

Richard Ellis, currently completing his Advanced Diploma at 1000 Hills Chefs School, achieved a fantastic win in the Canapés section of Chef of the Year in 2015. Kayla Osborn, Class of 2011, is aiming to top the second place she achieved in the Junior competition last year. Aaron Subroyal is one of the youngest ever competitors at just 18 years old, and he is up against Amerae Vercueil, former class-mate from 2015 and winner of the Goldcrest Young Chef of the Year competition last year.

The Unilever contest is judged by experienced and accredited culinary judges, including one from the World Association of Chefs. This means participants gain insight into world trends and feedback is invaluable, as chefs at every level learn and grow.

In another first, 1000 Hills Chefs School has been invited to participate in the SAB Intervarsity Beer Brewing Challenge, taking place in Kyalami on 10 September. Second year students learn the art of craft brewing during their course and Hylton du Preez, Damion Govender and Tiffany Barber are quietly confident about the quality of their brews. Accompanied by Lecturer, Chef Hugo Pienaar, they will compete against teams from 14 universities around South Africa.

As a school, competitions are a chance to assess skills against peers in the industry and it is this independent review that helps us to ensure we are always striving for excellence. Clearly the achievements of these young chefs means they have accomplished a high standard already, and healthy competition between them has pushed them to excel. We wish all our chefs every success in these contests in the coming weeks.

1000 Hills Chefs School, 031 777 1566, localhost/chefschoolold

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