One of Wilderness Foundation Africa’s projects is the Youth Development programme, where we seek to deliver holistic skills development and education interventions to equip vulnerable youth to be economically active and environmentally responsible citizens.
Our hospitality industry courses include Siyazenzela, Siyazenzela Plus, Umzi Wethu Training Academy and The Green Leaf Kitchen. Through our Youth Development Programme and related projects, young people are empowered to become financially independent entrepreneurs and breadwinners for their families-drawing on the opportunities presented by the growth of the eco-tourism industry in South Africa.
Kevin Gouws has been working at Wilderness Foundation Africa for over a year, as the Development Chef of the Youth Development Programme, based at the Tramways building. Previously, Kevin has worked in in London and the UK. He has worked with top chefs such as Andrew Parkinson, Andy Magson and Ralph Gottschalk.
Kevin enjoys experimenting with recipes and creating new dishes. He wanted to become a chef because he had the freedom to be creative and enjoyed the rush of a busy service.
We caught up with him for a quick interview to find out what his expectations are for the Umzi 21 -Hospitality Intake 2017/2018.
What does it take to be a good chef?
“The emphasis of a chef is learning a set of skills, but attitudes are just as important as this will help you not only learn new skills but also persevere and overcome the many, many difficulties you will face in the industry.
To be a professional cook, you have to like cooking and want to do it well. Being serious about your work does not mean you can’t enjoy it. But the enjoyment comes from doing your job well and making everything run smoothly.
A chef with a positive attitude works quickly, efficiently, neatly and safely! Professionals have pride in their work!
Pride is important but humility is important too, especially in the beginning of your careers. Learning to cook and manage a kitchen is a lifelong process and you need to understand that you are not qualified yet to be a Head chef!
You will require physical and mental stamina, good health, and a willingness to work hard. Its hard work, the pressure is intense, the hours long and gruelling. You will work evenings and weekends and the work can be monotonous. To overcome these difficulties requires a sense of responsibility and dedication to yourself, co-workers, customers and clients. Food service requires teamwork, and it’s essential to be able to work in a team and to cooperate with fellow workers.
There is more to learn in cooking than you will learn in a lifetime and the greatest chefs in the world are the first to admit that they have more to learn.”
What is included in the culinary course?
Since we have limited time, a lot of the course is made up of demonstrations. The students must also learn the practical side of the kitchen such as understanding the equipment, learning knife skills and learning different techniques, skills and plating.
What challenges do you face?
There will always be heated moments in the kitchen especially during service when there is a lot of pressure on students to perform but after service we will always refresh and start again.
What has been your favourite moment from past students?
My favourite moment is when I find out that my students have gone out into the world and achieved success and greater things. I’ve had past students who are currently working in Michelin Star Restaurants in London.