Spectrum Cooks
Photo Credit: Spectrum Cooks

What began as a lesson in the craft of culinary skills for Cheryl’s son, who is on the Autism Spectrum, has turned into an entire cooking school for kids and adults with special needs!


Claremont, South Africa (27 February 2024)—Cooking is a multifaceted discipline. It’s an art for some; a labour of love for others. But no matter how seriously you take your time in the kitchen, cooking is pretty imperative knowledge to have. However, for the Spectrum Cooks we’re about to spotlight, cooking is more than either of the aforementioned.

It’s a bridge that helps special needs kids and adults feel more comfortable in a society that is largely, still, not designed with them in mind. it’s an opportunity for more independence, inclusivity and confidence. This is what the Spectrum Cooks are all about, and why both students and teachers just can’t get enough of what they’re doing.

Simply put, Spectrum Cooks is a cooking school in Claremont that teaches kids and adults on the spectrum or who have special needs how to cook.

As teacher, Candice Friedman, tells Good Things Guy:

“We want to teach these amazing adults and kids life skills and to be independent. We even offer a full-time chef’s course for anyone who wants to be a chef and hopefully create their own business or work in a kitchen.” 

Beyond its mission, the story behind how Spectrum Cooks came to be is just as heartwarming.

As principal and founder Cheryl Terblanche shares of the school’s beginnings back in 2008, the school began organically.

Cheryl was home-schooling her son, a then teenage Shay Terblanche who is on the Autism Spectrum. The focus was on Shay’s hospitality studies and culinary abilities.

Shay began working professionally when he was just 17 and had become something of a success story.

“Word got around and I received a phone call from a parent of a son with Cerebral Palsy and was asked if I could teach his son to become self-sufficient in the kitchen.” 

Despite not having taught another young special needs student apart from her son, Cheryl decided to give it a go. This for her, was the beginning of a dream she didn’t even know she had.

For a long time, Shay and Cheryl taught skills at Bergvliet School’s Adult Enrichment Programme. After this chapter, she decided to focus completely on her own students. From 2017, Shay joined as a lecturer and the small but determined pair began working on figuring out how to offer accredited cooking courses!

The Spectrum Cooks have faced their fair share of challenges. One of the biggest includes fighting with the Department of Education to curate a recognised culinary curriculum for special needs students. When the going got tough, the team decided to develop their own recognised curriculum, as acknowledged by the Quality Council for Trades & Occupations (QCTO).

This resilience and willingness to make a plan that best helps the special needs community is the school’s secret ingredient. One new skill at a time, they are slowly but surely making a difference that’s plating more dreams.

Sources: Website Submission
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About the Author

Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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