Aimed at helping less fortunate young people from Ekurhuleni who have their sights set on becoming chefs, waitrons or housekeepers, the school offered fully-funded skills courses to 72 deserving youth when it opened its doors in May 2016.
Ekurhuleni, South Africa – The Peermont Community Benefit Trust (PCBT) has since provided 1114 learners with fully-funded sponsorships to the school. Among the fortunate learnership recipients of the Class of 2016 was a thrilled Mabuza, who had been accepted into the chef’s programme to start his journey towards becoming “The Culinary Gangster” – a nickname gained in affection from his classmates.
As a 15-year-old boy being brought up by his grandmother in an East Rand township, Meshack Mabuza’s dream of becoming a chef and following a career in the hospitality industry often felt like an unattainable fantasy.
Having recently celebrated his 22nd birthday, he is well on his way to making his dream of “making the world taste great” a reality – thanks to the PCBT, a CSI initiative of Emperors Palace, and his own hard work, tenacity, and culinary talent.
However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the youngster. After matriculating from Ponelopele Oracle Secondary School in Tembisa in 2014, he took a job working in a national chain store’s warehouse in Centurion as there was no money for him to pursue a tertiary education. He later moved on to become a call centre agent, putting his culinary aspirations on hold.
In 2016, his life was set to change course when the PCBT, established the Peermont Hotel School (PHS) at Emperors Palace. Aimed at helping less fortunate young people from Ekurhuleni who have their sights set on becoming chefs, waitrons or housekeepers, the school offered fully-funded skills courses to 72 deserving youth when it opened its doors in May 2016. The PCBT has since provided 1114 learners with fully-funded sponsorships to the school. Among the fortunate learnership recipients of the Class of 2016 was a thrilled Mabuza, who had been accepted into the chef’s programme to start his journey towards becoming “The Culinary Gangster” – a nickname gained in affection from his classmates.
“When I received the news that I was going to the hotel school I couldn’t believe it, and it was one of the best days of my life!” says Mabuza. “The PHS created a platform for me to make my mark as a young chef in this industry, with proper guidance and a good basic education. It (the school) also gave me all the tools I needed to make it to where I am now, and I’m just so grateful.”
He quickly became one of the stars in the programme and, after completing his theoretical training course under the guidance of Chef Lehan Botha of Celo (the accredited training provider for the PHS), Mabuza moved onto his practical training in the kitchens of Emperors Palace, helping him gain much-needed experience.
Upon graduating among the top students in his class, Mabuza didn’t let the grass grow under his feet and boldly approached “My Kitchen Rules SA” judge, Chef David Higgs, for a job at the well-known Marble Restaurant in Johannesburg. Much to Mabuza’s surprise and delight, Higgs gave him a chance, enabling the youngster to work and learn alongside one of the best-known chefs in the country.
His tenacity and drive to prosper has stood him in good stead, earning him the position of Chef de partie at Higgs’ new trendy Saint Restaurant in Sandton.
Speaking about his time working with Chef Higgs, Mabuza comments, “He has taught me how to be an old school professional chef, from respecting my ingredients to mastering flavour combinations and creating great tasting, delicious food. When he moved me to Saint Restaurant as his Chef de partie, Chef Higgs started teaching me Italian cuisine, and I’m still looking forward to learning from him because he has been my role model from the word ‘go’.”
Mabuza has plans to pursue a tertiary education in the hospitality and tourism field while he sets new goals and bigger dreams, including owning his own restaurant and preparing culinary delights for his own VIP guests.
“Meshack is a walking example of what can be achieved with talent, hard work, a touch of chutzpah and the help of a fully-funded learnership from Emperors Palace’s PCBT to attend the Peermont Hotel School,” says Jenny Findlay, Trust Manager at Peermont.
“What he has achieved from such humble beginnings in such a short space of time just proves that if you can dream it, you can do it.”
Aspiring chefs who would like to follow in Mabuza’s footsteps can download the PHS application form at www.peermonthotelschool.co.za. Provided they comply with the application requirements, they can then complete and submit the forms with all the relevant documentation to email@example.com.