In 2017, after finishing matric, Sisanda Hayizani (photo) from Kayamandi took the December holidays to mull over what she wanted to study the following year. She had grown up being taught by her grandmother how to cook, from cabbage to pap and everything else. It was therefore no surprise that she set her mind on one day working in the kitchens of some of South Africa’s top restaurants.

Her mom suggested that she look into Bergzicht Training and Development and with the help of her mom’s employer, Ms Sonia Gouws, Sisanda enrolled for the iPOWER (Self-Empowering) Foundation Programme at the organisation. Afterwards she completed the Cathsseta Food Service Assistant and Food and Beverage Service Programme.

“It had always been my life mission to do something that I really wanted to do. I didn’t want to be someone who went through life not liking what they do. Cooking was me and I was going to do me,” says Sisanda.

The rest is history.

Today Sisanda works in Eike by Bertus Basson. Basson is one of South Africa’s top chefs and owns five restaurants – the Stellenbosch-based Eike, Overture, Spek& Bone, and De Vrije Burger, as well as The Deck at Hidden Valley Farm.  At Eike she has also been mentored by  Head Chef, Kyle du Plooy, who she says has encouraged her “to grow in the kitchen”, and have been supported by fellow staff members who want to help her succeed too.

As part of the Food Service Assistant Programme at Bergzicht Training and Development, Sisanda had to also complete a three-week work-integrated learning opportunity, which she completed at Stellenbosch Lodge.

“You know, when you start out, everything feels completely new and you feel under a lot of pressure, but if you persist and are determined and focus on your prepping while moving fast to get things done, you do learn to cope with that pressure. It was a challenge and a learning curve for me, because I had to learn to do different things at once like cooking a steak over here, but keeping an eye over there on another thing, but I got through it.”

After completing the programme at Bergzicht Training and Development, she enrolled at Stellemploy where she completed the year-long and internationally recognised Highfield Qualification in Food Production and Cooking diploma course.

Thereafter, she spent five months completing the internship component of the Stellemployprogramme by working at all Basson’s restaurants.

“It was extreme fun and challenging at the same time. Bertus Basson likes things to be done perfectly and that you apply your mind to making good food. I was shaking the first time I met him, but when he introduced himself to me, I was so excited. I decided then and there that I was going to stick to him and make sure I learn everything I can from him.”

While Sisanda works in different sections in the kitchen at Eike today, she says, she loves cooking and heads straight to the cooking section every time she gets the opportunity to do so.

“I am grateful to Bergzicht Training and Development because they taught me to have confidence in myself, supported me all the way, and encouraged me because they believed in me and wanted to make sure I believed in myself too.”

It is this self believe that Sisanda now wants to encourage in other young persons wanting to enter the industry.

“There is nothing in this world that can come in my way when I decide I want to do something. If I want something, I make sure I work hard and push myself to get it. As a young person, you need to believe in yourself in that way before you start working in this sector, because you need to believe that you can work in a demanding and fast-paced industry like this.”

Click here to read the story of Lungelwa Booysen, her passion for fine dining, and how being mentored by the highly acclaimed chef George Jardine has helped her career develop in leaps and bounds