Eleven students received their certificates after having completed the Cathsseta-accredited Food Service Assistant (FSA) training programme at Bergzicht Training and Development & Development on Thursday, 1 December. Congratulated at a ceremony in Stellenbosch, the cohort was the first to graduate from Bergzicht’s newly accredited training kitchen, which had been inaugurated in September 2022.

At a special event attended by family members, students danced their way into the hall to Master KG’s ‘Superstar’, which features lyrics such as: ‘Don’t judge me now, judge me later… Don’t judge me now, ’cause my later will be greater.’

Newly certified Jaydeen Greeff, 23, one of the group’s top three students, spoke with pride of her experience attending the accredited 10-week skills programme. “We’ve all had it rough, but we’ve finally achieved something in our lives,” she told fellow students.

Greeff graduated a day after signing a contract to become a junior chef at Spier Estate, where she did a three-week work-integrated learning placement as part of the programme. “What I loved was the motivation that the facilitators gave, that we should have hope… But the food was really tasty as well!” she said.

Bergzicht’s Director, Kathy Harris, congratulated “one of the most exceptional groups ever to complete the FSA programme”.

“These nine women and two men have been exceptional in every way and have come through with flying colours,” Harris said. “We wish them every success; we are very, very proud of them!”

Students pay a nominal fee to participate in the programme run by non-governmental organisation (NGO) Bergzicht Training and Development & Development in Stellenbosch. The course is funded by donors such as The TK Foundation, which supported the latest group to complete the FSA programme. Instruction in basic culinary skills is masterfully packed into a short timeline and ably presented by Assessor Annabella van Breukelen. During their time on the course, students learn knife skills, basic pastry baking, how to cook sauces, how to debone and cook fish, and how to prepare meat and vegetable dishes.

“The graduation today was such an uplifting event,” said Heather Cooper, Director of The TK Foundation’s South Africa Grants Programme. “We have been supporting Bergzicht for many years and it was a most gratifying experience to witness what these 11 individuals have achieved.”

“They have overcome difficulties; they have made it to this milestone, and they have jobs secured,” Cooper added. “This is what The TK Foundation is about: Helping youth achieve their dreams through a hand up, not a hand-out.”

Several graduates from this cohort have already stepped into jobs in the local hospitality industry and are a testament to the industry’s recognition of the skills taught at Bergzicht.

This graduating group’s overall best-performing student, Dimakatso Kunyane, 22, started laundry and hairdressing businesses to fund her daily travel from Kraaifontein to the Stellenbosch campus. Two weeks into her practical placement at Hazendal Estate, she was offered a job. Her dreams for the future are clear: “I don’t actually want to work in a kitchen forever. My dream is to one day open my own catering company, so I can get to employ my own people, and teach them what was taught to me.”

Councillor Lwando Nkamisa, the Stellenbosch Mayoral Committee Member for Corporate Services, encouraged the graduates to grab the opportunities that come their way. “The skills that they learnt here are not just skills that tick a box, they’re skills that they can use in real life and can assist people in the real world,” Councillor Nkamisa said. “It’s not just theoretical knowledge that they gain here, it’s practical life skills knowledge that will benefit them for years to come.”

As part of the course’s holistic approach, students underwent a 20-day life skills training programme ahead of this advanced programme.

“After Covid-19, the tourism industry is running around looking for people,” said Deon Roets, Academic Manager of The Chefs Training & Innovation Academy (CTIA), an accredited training partner. “These graduates are in a prime position with what they’ve learned here.”

Alumni will receive support and advice for a year following the completion of the programme. Once they’ve been employed for a year, they will be invited to an annual Celebration event to honour their working achievements. Employers interested in employing Bergzicht’s young aspirant chef graduates can contact Student Development Manager Nathalie Skippers at employ@bergzicht.org.za.

MAIN PHOTO: Back: Nathalie Skippers (Bergzicht Student Development Manager) with now certified FSA programme participants Linda Dokodwana, Emihle Sigijimi, Khanya Nombakuse, Somilangaye Gulwa, Dimakatso Kunyane and Heather Cooper (The TK Foundation Director)
Front: Ana Siko, Jaydeen Greeff, Robyn Diamond, Sinazo Kolisi, Asavela Nkalitshana, Meagan Taitai

FEATURED PHOTO 2: Celebrating in full shine, certified FSA class, the final group of 2022. In the front: Ana Siko, Sinazo Kolisi, Meagan Taitai, Asavela Nkalitshana, Linda Dokodwana, Robyn Diamond, Jaydeen Greeff
At the back: Somilangaye Gulwa, Khanya Nombakuse, Emihle Sigijimi, Dimakatso Kunyane

FEATURED PHOTO 3: Dimakatso Kunyane, FSA 3 Overall Winner showing her certificates with a stunning smile