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Four good news stories in local hospitality industry

As the industry regains confidence after the crippling consequences of lockdown, here are four initiatives for those wanting to pursue a career in food and wine

06 March 2022 - 00:00
Award-winning chef Luke Dale-Roberts.
Award-winning chef Luke Dale-Roberts.
Image: Supplied


Multi-award-winning chef Luke Dale Roberts and his restaurants The Test Kitchen and Shortmarket Club may have relocated to Gauteng (the opening of Test Kitchen Carbon is imminent in Rosebank, Johannesburg) but this hasn’t stopped Roberts, wife Sandalene and the team from embarking on an ambitious project in the old Test Kitchen premises in Woodstock, Cape Town.

Their Fledgelings concept aims to assist those who previously had no access to the hospitality industry and offers them the opportunity to potentially forge a new career. 

The idea was born during the forced closure of restaurants during lockdown and Luke and Sandalene, with time on their hands, started teaching their sons' childminder, Bibo Magidiwana, and her daughter how to cook. As friends joined so the momentum grew and The Test Kitchen Fledgelings came into being.  Today Magidiwana is on her way to becoming a head chef in one of the LDR kitchens.

The project has gone from strength to strength, said Sandalene. The requirement for  wannabe chefs is a matric, loads of energy and a will to learn. It's a tough industry.  Those selected are employed full time, receive a salary and are continually upskilled with on-the-job training by Luke and head chef Dylan Frayne, who are in the kitchen teaching and improving techniques.

Beyond the kitchen the Fledgelings are taught the art of watering, wine and bar skills and front-of-house management. The aim is for the recruits is to grow and be incorporated into one of the LDR restaurants or other establishments.

Patrons enjoy the wonderful ambience and food on offer at Fledgelings.
Patrons enjoy the wonderful ambience and food on offer at Fledgelings.
Image: Supplied

The public enjoying a meal at the Fledgelings restaurant is key to keeping the project alive, and there's no compromising on quality.  A friend and I enjoyed an excellent meal, kicking off with delectable, crunchy fried salmon, super crispy on the outside, the fish melt-in-the-mouth, rare in the centre, the jalapeño pepper cutting the richness with a pleasant dash of heat.

The service is excellent and the vibe buoyant. It comes with big helpings of enthusiasm — and yes, a few errors, but these are easily overlooked as it's all part of the learning experience.

The restaurant offers a “Fully Fledged” set menu as well as à la carte.

A professional sommelier serves wine.
A professional sommelier serves wine.
Image: 123rf.com/pandorapictures


According to the South African Sommeliers Association (Sasa), most of those serving wine and other drinks in the hospitality industry are doing their job without any formal training or qualification.

In an effort to amend the situation and cultivate a culture of service excellence in the country, the association has launched an introductory sommelier certificate. The qualification is both accessible and affordable, and aims to empower service professionals with basic wine and service certification, which will elevate service standards and offer more recognition and better wages for those in the industry.

The Introductory Sommelier Certificate costs R500 and the first one starts at the end of March. Exams are written at Sasa’s venues nationwide and to sit the exams attendees must be members of Sasa, whose membership is R250 annually.

• See sommeliers.org.za

Lusanda Mafanya, a passionate cook and budding chef, won a R100,000 bursary in a competition to launch the opening of the International Hotel School in Gqeberha.
Lusanda Mafanya, a passionate cook and budding chef, won a R100,000 bursary in a competition to launch the opening of the International Hotel School in Gqeberha.
Image: Supplied


Next week marks a milestone in the Eastern Cape when the International Hotel School opens a branch in the city. Rated as one of the top 50 hospitality schools internationally, the school offers accredited tertiary training in a one-year culinary arts programme — practical and theory. Apart from covering the skills required for a career in the industry, the school organises work experience in restaurants and hotels around SA as an essential part of training.

Beyond the one-year training students can do further training with a six-month patisserie course and/or a six-month advanced diploma in food prep and cookery. Both are theory and practical courses. 

To kick off the opening of the school, aspiring chefs in the local community were offered an opportunity to win one of 10 R30,000 bursaries to start their culinary journey.

The 10  winners then participated in a hotly contested cook-off to secure a R100,000 bursary. Lusanda Mafanya, who is “between jobs”, was absolutely delighted that his rendition of the perfect burger was his ticket to pursue his dream of training for a career in the industry.

The first uLutsha wine has been bottled.
The first uLutsha wine has been bottled.
Image: Supplied


The Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA) was founded to develop young South African talent for meaningful employment. Though it is not exclusively involved in the wine industry, of its 436 graduates, 303 have chosen to embark on wine training.

Putting this essential business and wine training into action, wine producer Delheim has  collaborated with a team of PYDA graduates to produce a new wine, uLutsha, which was launched last month. The uLutsha (the iXhosa word for youth) project started in 2021 when nine graduates produced their very first bottle of wine with the assistance of award-winning winemaker Ntsiki Biyela, who developed the Aslina brand and has made Delheim her home base.

The success of this initiative means Delheim will continue the collaboration, as the second group of five graduates came on board last month. They will make the wine for the next group, and bottle the wine made by the previous group — and so the uLutsha brand will continue to grow.

To buy the wine, contact ulutsha@pyda.co.za

• For more information on the PYDA