In a city where the hospitality industry sustains so many jobs Infinity Culinary Training (ICT) offers a stepping stop to becoming a chef, with both technical and life skills.
The institution, established in 2009, has already achieved 284 graduates from places like Philippi, Khayelitsha and Nyanga, and 230 have been employed through its programmes.
The 24-week course it offers consists of three phases. Phase one has eight weeks of kitchen and classroom training. Phase two is a four-week unpaid internship where students are placed in different restaurants and hotels around the city. Some of these include 95 Keerom, Afri-CAN Charity, Asoka, Cape Town Hollow Hotel, Claredon Hotel, Southern Sun Hotel and Primi Piatti in the Waterfront. The third and final phase is a 12-week paid internship where students are placed in different establishments, and this is a requirement for graduation.
During the course, students are exposed to different activities aimed at building their confidence to become better chefs. Every Thursday, students are asked to reflect on the struggles encountered during the week, which has proven to be what makes the graduates stand out from the rest.
From ex-drug addicts to people with no matric, ICT has transformed hundreds of lives, and is expanding across the country.
When a 29-year old mother of one from Philippi, Zanele Mdokwana, was enrolled at the ICT, she did not know she would end up as a chef heading the organisation’s practical training. Pregnant at 16, she had to leave school and without a matric felt she had nowhere to turn – until she heard about ICT through a then lecturer.
“When I first got here I was lost. ICT didn’t only teach me how to be a great chef but it also taught me life skills which have helped me become a better mother to my son, a better person (much healthier) and a very happy individual,” she says.
Another 29-year old who graduated the same year as Mdokwana, Sindi Rosi, has also risen above her circumstances, from being a cleaner with no matric to head chef of theory.
“Before enrolling with ICT I was a person with no matric working as a cleaner at a hotel, I had no idea that one day I would be a head chef for theoretical skills. ICT has changed my life for better,” she says.
ICT has formed a partnership with 68 stakeholders, such as Woolworths, Chalk & Cork, Ellerman House, Shortmarket Club, the Vineyard Hotel, Belmond Mount Nelson and the Crystal Towers Hotel and Spa.
ICT lecturer and 2010 graduate Nceba Nyoka from Eersterivier says: “I’ve managed to travel the world cooking. I’ve had the best experience of my life but now I’ve come back to teach life skills because I feel my life experience can change someone else’s. It is possible.” Nyoka completed his matric and had no money to further his studies when he heard about ICT. He thought he’d try it out and it paid off.
Marketing and Fundraising Coordinator Lauren Jaclynn Pretorius says the cornerstone of ICT’s programme is life skills.
“Being a chef is an esteemed career. We want our students to have something to work towards. We don’t want them to be just employed, we want them to have meaningful employment and to transform a short-term career into lifelong careers,” she says.
For more information, visit www.ictchefs.org.