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Dollops of Dreams

Graham White (19) grew up on a farm just outside of Malmesbury in the Western Cape. “I was always interested in cooking,” he says, “As a child I used to help my ouma make malva pudding in the kitchen, measuring out the ingredients and stirring the mixing bowl.” So when he read in the newspaper that the iKusasa School of Cooking was inviting applications for its new campus in Riebeek West, he knew what he wanted to do.

iKusasa School of Cooking top graduate for 2015, Graham White now undertaking his internship at Le Franschoek Hotel & Spa, Franschoek, Western Cape.

“When I was accepted at iKusasa I was so excited,” he grins recalling his story, “In the beginning things went well, but by June it got more difficult. Working in a real kitchen wasn’t what I expected, it was a lot tougher.” However, Graham persevered and applied himself to his studies, and at the end of 2015 was declared the top student. He was so shocked, “Ek het in my binneste gehuil, want ek het dit net nie geglo.”

As a result of his hard work, Graham received a three year bursary to study at the International Hotel School and is currently doing his internship at Le Franschoek Hotel & Spa where we’re visiting him today. “And here I am,” he gestures, “working in a fency 4* hotel. What cooking has taught me is you have to learn to multi-task, to keep an eye on two pots and something in the oven. Under Chef Scott, I’ve learned to work hard, work well under pressure and work fast. I’m happy here and feel proud that I can send money to my family now.”

Le Franschoek Hotel & Spa Executive Chef, Scott Shepherd (rights) says young Graham is showing good leadership potential and would like to see him as chef de partie by the end of his internship, capable of running his own section alone.

Creating life-changing opportunities to break the cycle of poverty is what corporate social investment is ultimately about. This is why the Old Mutual Foundation invested R400 000 in 2014 to enable the iKusasa School of Cooking to train 12 youth such as Graham, to receive an internationally recognised City & Guilds Certificate in Food Preparation and Cooking.

2016 Ikusasa School of Cooking students, Riebeek West campus, Western Cape,

Trustee and Director of iKusasa School of Cooking, Don King, speaks to us at the Riebeek West campus about some of the sucesses and challenges encountered by the school since opening in 2013. Interestingly, he mentions there’s often a negative cultural perception that work in the kitchen is regarded as domestic work, not something aspirational and especially not for men. And at times the school has experienced a surprising lack of parental support for their children to pursue alternative work (other than that which is normal in the community), or for them to seek work once graduated, far away in the cities.

What an unexpected treat for the #Journey2 road trip team, delicious omelettes for lunch!

These realities, and many other challenges, are why Don understands that it is sometimes difficult to bring about lasting social development. And this is why stories like Graham’s are all the more encouraging. “When I’m finished my internship, I want to go and work in Dubai and gain more experience,” Graham says, “I want to give it my all.”

Graham White, Le Franschoek Hotel & Spa.

One Response to Dollops of Dreams

  1. debi says:

    I get goose bumps reading how ordinary lives are so dramatically transformed by the financial investment required to open wide the doors of opportunity for each of them to walk through….. !! Over and over again, I am deeply inspired.

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