Masterchef dreams come true at Jwaneng: iLIVE

22 August 2012 - 13:26 By Steven Brown

Two Batswana chefs were the winners of the second annual Chefs of Excellence competition..

In January 2013, Sizwe Koosalete and Joalane Motseko will start the Christina Martin Culinary Arts programme at the International Hotel School (IHS) in Durban, South Africa.

These two Batswana chefs were the winners of the second annual Chefs of Excellence competition hosted by Camp Management Services Botswana (CMSB), and Debswana.

As previous contestants in 2011, both chefs credit the experience they gained and were able to use in this year’s competition. “I was not so nervous this time around,” said Sizwe. “My experience from last year definitely helped me to handle the pressure better,” agreed Joalane.

The competition’s final cook-off took place on Friday, August 10 at the Jwaneng Diamond Mine’s Cut 8 village. The eight finalists, selected following cook-offs at each of the CMSB operations in Botswana and represented CMSB’s projects in Jwaneng, Toteng, Orapa and Ghaghoo (CKGR), had to prepare a three-course meal within a specified time period. To add to the pressure, they received two mystery ingredients each for the starter and main course which they had to use to create their menus, supported by additional supplies which were available from the “pantries” set up at each of the cooking stations.

The lapa area at the Cut 8 village was transformed into a Masterchef-style kitchen, complete with eight cooking stations, ovens, stoves, fridges and all the equipment and utensils the contestants could possibly need. One of the main sponsors, Gaberone Electronics, provided all the equipment for the competition, as well as financial support.

General manager of Caterplus, Bonolo Champane was a judge, and explained her company’s rationale for supporting the competition: “Catering is not yet regarded as a serious career in Botswana and we want to change that. Most executive chefs in local restaurants are foreigners. It is my dream and goal to deal with Batswana executive chefs in the next 10-15 years. These competitors are my future customers!”

The competition final was a model of stakeholders including CMSB suppliers, including Senn Foods, Mr Veg, Jwaneng Meat Market and Phoenix Bakery joining forces to create a memorable event. “Our sponsors have been fantastic and the success of the day is testament to their goodwill and the extent to which they share our vision of creating life-changing opportunities.”

The competition’s chief sponsor, Debswana, echoed the theme of an investment in national skills development in the speech delivered by Dr Ntsabula, chief medical officer at Jwaneng Hospital. “Debswana has made a commitment to enrich people’s lives through partnerships with stakeholders. To us, Chefs of Excellence is an investment equal to our existing technical scholarships.”

The International Hotel School is the organisation that is offering this life-changing opportunity for these future students. The Director Don King, was present as a judge on the day: “I have witnessed enormous potential here today,” he commented. “The IHS looks forward to nurture and polish Joalane and Sizwe’s potential and to help them both shine.” The International Hotel School has been doing groundwork in Botswana for several months and King announced at the competition that its Botswana branch will open its doors on 1 January 2013. “The reasons for locating the IHS’s new facility in Botswana are varied” he said. “The country has an excellent education system and is held in high regard by its SADCC neighbours. We therefore hope to attract not only local students, but also people from other countries in the region.”

CMSB and its sponsors have already committed to Chefs of Excellence 2013. CMSB director, Mike Davies, explains: “From our point of view, the competition is first and foremost an investment in our staff’s skills and knowledge, and an opportunity to showcase the career opportunities within CMSB specifically and culinary art in general. In the context of Botswana as a country, the competition is our contribution to the government’s objective of diversifying the economy and growing the tourism industry. There can be no doubt about the need for chefs to provide a world class fine-dining experience to guests staying at the country's hotels and lodges.”