Lynn de Vries has walked a long, winding road to get the job she has always wanted. However, had it not been for that road, she may not have been ready for the position of chef at Ride In Café in Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, when the opportunity finally presented itself.

“I finished matric at Stellenzicht High School in 2007. My mother wanted me to study finance, but I was not interested in it. I also did not have the right contacts or persons to support me to give me the correct guidelines to find out about other study opportunities,” explains Lynn.

Instead she ended up doing administrative work for Canal Walk Centre Management filing documents, doing data capturing and other tasks.

At the time her mom was working as a housekeeper for a German family at Dornier Wines in Stellenbosch. A friend of the family, Tanya Rosenberg, who lived in Germany and often came to visit the family in South Africa, showed an interest in Lynn’s plans for the future as she neared the end of her matric.

“She asked me what I wanted to do after school and I told her I wasn’t really sure. I did want to travel though, because when you travel the world you get to see and experience new things and that expands your way of thinking,” she says.

When Tanya heard this, she suggested that Lynn come to Germany for four months on an all-expenses paid visit. In exchange, Lynn would babysit Tanya’s three-year old daughter when needed and would be given time off to travel and explore Germany while also attending a German school where she would learn German.

“I was really young, just 18 and it was the first time I was travelling on my own. It was nerve wrecking, but it also opened my eyes up to a world outside South Africa and to things happening in other parts of the world. I particularly liked visiting the bakeries and enjoyed the lovely smells that came from those bakeries. It was there that I realised that I actually wanted to work as a pastry chef.”

Another detour

However, upon her return to South Africa, Lynn needed to earn an income and instead found cleaning work to do so. Later she worked at Bodega restaurant until she got a job at La Senza in Cape Town where she worked for a year and a half.

“I knew I did not want to be in that job, but I was also scared to do what I really wanted to do. I really struggled with that for a long time. My family wanted me to do something that would help me earn a good income, but I knew what I really wanted to do.”

In September 2013, a friend who was completing a Child Care Programme at Bergzicht Training and Development, told her about the Cathsseta Food Service & Food and Beverage Service Assistant Programme offered by the organisation in collaboration with The Private Hotel School.

“I started doing the iPOWER Programme and it really helped build up my self-confidence, because I was a very shy person and did not like speaking to people because of it. The programme gave me the confidence to start speaking in front of people.”

However, after completing the programme, Lynn moved to Johannesburg to work for a glass manufacturing company in an administrative position.

“I don’t know how I always ended up in administration, because it was not my passion at all,” she says and laughs.

Starting her Bergzicht journey

In 2015 she resigned and came back to Cape Town and in 2016 she was accepted for the Cathsseta programme.

“During my practical training I worked at Oude Werf where I learnt a lot about cooking. However, the managers also put me in the baking section. I was really scared to work in the baking section, but I took it as an opportunity to learn something new. Now my baking skills are very good because of that.”

Today Lynn works with the head chef at Ride In Café, where she has become an all-rounder working in the hot, cold and baking sections.

“There were many times I used to ask myself, why am I struggling to find work in the field that I am really interested in. Have I done something wrong and am I being punished for it? But I realised at some point that I needed to wait my turn. That my turn would come. Yes, there were times I wanted to give up, but I waited for my turn and here I am today.”

She is particularly thankful to her husband, who she says has always pushed her to persevere.

After hours, Lynn is able to take her love for baking even further with the small business she runs baking cakes for private clients.

“Bergzicht Training and Development changed so many things in my life. They taught me to believe in myself, to trust my skills and to carry myself with more confidence. My dream is to open my own bakery one day and to give Bergzicht Training and Development students an opportunity to train in my bakery. I would love to also create job opportunities for those students. I want to give back, because they helped me when I needed it.”