In 2017, while working as a deli assistant at the Pick n Pay Express at the BP garage in Merriman Street in Stellenbosch, 30-year old Lungelwa Booysen divulged to her colleague that she had always wanted to work in the fine dining restaurant industry. Today she is an Assistant Chef in the cold section of the famous Jardine Restaurant in Stellenbosch.

“I love fine dining. It’s so detailed and everything is prepared in a certain way to add to the experience,” says Lungelwa who completed the Cathsseta Food Service Assistant and Food and Beverage Service Programme at Bergzicht Training and Development.

Jardine Restaurant is owned by the highly acclaimed chef George Jardine, who is also Lungelwa’s mentor.

“The work I do in the kitchen at Jardine is very detailed and because I am a detailed person, I love that part of my job.”

While the industry she finds herself in, can be very demanding, it is the constant change that gets her excited.

“What really inspires me is that our menu changes every two weeks, so you never get bored with the dishes you are preparing. When I walk in in the morning, I always wonder what exciting dishes chef will be adding to the menu today and sharing with us to make in the kitchen? It keeps me on my toes and allows me to learn new things all the time.”

On the days that are tough due to the demands of the industry, Lungelwa says a quick prayer and draws on her positive spirit to pull her through. It’s something she has had to do a lot in her personal life with the passing of her husband earlier this year due to cancer.

“When my husband was sick, chef George [Jardine], his wife Louise and the whole Jardine team was there to support me. On the day that I got the call to come to hospital to say goodbye to my husband, chef George drove me there,” says a deeply appreciative Lungelwa.

She believes that constructive criticism is what has helped her grow in leaps and bounds over the last few months.

“It’s important to take in the advice and criticism you get in the kitchen, because it can take you a long way. Compliments are great, but I think criticism will take you much further in your career.”

Lungelwa has progressed so much in the last year, that she was selected as the overall champion amongst six top performing alumni at the first ever Alumni Celebration Day on 19 November. She won a return flight for two from Cape Town to Johannesburg sponsored by Global Accommodation and 5-star accommodation and a dinner in Johannesburg sponsored by Tsogo Sun.

She’s eternally grateful to Bergzicht Training and Development for equipping her with skills she can use to empower herself. “A few weeks after I completed my programme, I did what Bergzicht Training and Development taught me to do – I took my CV and went door to door to find a job. That’s how I found a job at Jardine.”

Mostly, she’s appreciative of how they carried her through during her husband’s illness and following his death.

“I always keep them in my life. I share the sad and the happy moments with them. If I don’t WhatsApp them, I will visit. They’ve made my journey very smooth. When I am having a tough day, when I am happy, they are there. So that bond has never stopped.”

Photo: Bergzicht Training and Development alumnus, Lungelwa Booysen, works as an Assistant Chef at Jardine Restaurant, which is owned by the highly acclaimed chef, George Jardine, who also happens to be her mentor. (Lynne Rippenaar-Moses)