Today I added to my list of firsts. I got my results above and I am now a qualified chef. I passed my international culinary board exam with distinction.
My undergrad degree in commerce at Wits, my post grad at Gibs and my masters degree in Business at Wits Business School were tough. But they were all nothing in comparison to studying to become a chef. I can tell you it’s true what they say, if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. After working 18 hour days in 45 degree kitchen and then still having to study and write exams this was not a walk in the park.
When I started at culinary school I did not know how to boil rice, and was in class with people who had been cooking for 15 years! I had a day job that didn’t involve cooking every day, my class mates were either cooking at restaurants, had been part time cooks or grew up in the industry. I came from IT, all I knew about food was that I liked eating it.
I now by the way can cook 7 types of rice in 11 different ways.
Why did I put myself through this painful experience. Well because at Microsoft I was taught that a leader never asks questions that he already does not know answers to. I always found my staff in the restaurant when I asked to innovate or add a new product on the menu the first answer would be no it can’t be done and give me a ton of excuses as to why. People don’t like change and so the default to something new is no. If you are leading people who know you don’t know better than them why would they follow your leadership? I am now the Chef Executive Officer, see what I did there🙄
Besides if I am to change the South African food landscape I need to fundamentally understand the production of my product.
What shocked me in the process was how little I knew about food going in. I mean like you I eat three times a day. I need food to survive and yet I knew nothing about cooking. You would think something as important as food one would be taught it at school as mandatory subject till grade 12. It amazed me how much we relegate this responsibility to someone else. We don’t know where our food comes from, who in the kitchen cooks it, how they cook, when, etc.
If you put something in your mouth you should surely at least request to see the kitchen it is prepared in so you can verify cleanliness of the food and the people who prepare it. I guess it’s the old… what you don’t know can’t hurt you.
After the national flag, national anthem, food is the third most important cultural symbol. Our flag and national anthem are a cut copy paste job. South African cuisine is reflection of that too. I endeavor to make South African Cuisine something that South African can be proud. National pride is exportable.
Business idea💡 a school that teaches for professional waiters. Believe it or not it does not exists!