It’s no secret that good food (and wine or whatever your preferred tipple) is essential to any travel experience. It’s something that I’ve long spoken of with my friend, the renowned New York chef Dan Kluger, of Loring Place fame. Over the years, we have plotted and planned a culinary and cultural tour that would take us into the kitchens of South Africa’s most talented chefs, offering behind-the-scenes insights into the most celebrated, award-winning restaurants with hands-on demonstrations and one-on-one encounters with the chefs, artisanal producers and major players on their culinary landscape. That dream was realized last year when we traveled to Cape Town with a group of like-minded foodies on a sensational journey that surpassed our expectations on every level. The trip culminated in a visit to Singita in the Kruger National Park, without doubt the highlight of our trip as we were privileged to bear witness to the incredible work that is being carried out at The Singita Community Culinary School.
The school recruits ten students a year from some 400 applicants (drawn from two communities that live adjacent), who participate in a paid, year-long intensive culinary training program that gives them real-world training in a fast-paced kitchen environment as well as the contextual know-how to work in high-end hospitality environments throughout Africa. It’s a program that Singita takes very seriously, as is evident by the fact that 95% of its graduates find employment. This makes it a major success story not just for the Singita Group but for the hospitality industry and the Mpumalanga Province, where the youth unemployment rate is 35%.
In 2017 on the tenth anniversary of the school, Singita took things up a notch by enlisting internationally acclaimed Chef Liam Tomlin. Liam is known for his fabulous restaurants in Cape Town–Chefs Warehouse, Thali, Beau Constantia and Maison in the winelands. His brief was to make his mark on the program, combining theory with intensive practical training, most of which happens onsite in Singita’s kitchens. In addition to giving each of the five Singita Lodge kitchens their own signature style, he was also tasked with designing the new facility (which opened in 2018) and developing a program where increased exposure to lodge kitchens and chefs as well as interaction with guests, would contribute to the development of the next generation of talented young chefs.
The incredible attention to detail we witnessed at the School, in the form of the state-of-the-art test kitchen facility, allowed us to observe and participate in private cooking lessons alongside the students. Whether it was mastering a particular dish we’d enjoyed that day, learning a traditional recipe or helping to prepare an element of the lodge’s tapas-style lunch – a few hours in the kitchen with these hardworking, creative minds was an enriching and rewarding experience for our guests. As the attached video shows, the school is a significant step towards achieving the Singita Group’s long-term broad community development goals, in that it assists families that live in and around the reserves to thrive economically – while fostering great pride and a sense of ownership within the local communities that touched us all. The resultant cultivation of entrepreneurship, improving education and building environmental awareness are all the things that we at ROAR AFRICA hold dear.
If you are interested in joining us on our next Flavors of a Rainbow Nation Culinary Journey, please email email@example.com