In a competition designed to showcase the skills, knowledge and craft of the chef, the City & Guilds Skills Challenge tasked students from hospitality schools in SA to sharpen their knives and show the judges what they’re made of. This year’s winning team was from the International Hotel School in Sandton, and comprised Brandon Lee Matais and Ryan Sachen Chinnappen, with lecturer Pierre Van Heerden as mentor.
“The opportunity to be a part of the competition is an incredible privilege. The learning experience for the students is an immeasurable benefit,” says Pierre van Heerden. “Aside from the highlights of being part of the SACA skillery and the networking opportunities, it’s incredibly rewarding to watch your students perform and to work so closely with them during training.”
The tasks that the students needed to complete for the competition included fabrication of chicken, beef and fish; they were then asked to prepare classical dishes with these three proteins. As part of the training, the students spent the day at Braeside Butchery, learning to process meat. They then spent two full days practising the fabrication and preparing their classical dishes with Senior Culinary Arts Lecturer Candice Adams.
“We worked on menu design and workflow to start, and once we found our groove and identified strengths in Brandon and Ryan, we started running time based practice rounds. During these practice rounds we simulated the ‘worst possible’ set of circumstances, requiring the students to think on their feet. We removed equipment and utensils that were not guaranteed to be available to them, such as ovens, deep fryers, stick blenders and plating tools (such as ring cutters),” says Candice.
“We feel this was integral to their success as they became completely independent of any tools or equipment not available to them in their knife sets and a basic kitchen set up. Although fully prepared, you cannot simulate the pressure and nerves that are felt by competitors on the competition day, or foresee any unexpected situations or changes. Due to this we spent a large part of the training coaching them on how to handle unexpected changes, how to think out of the box and how to remain professional and calm in high pressure situations.”
All of the training paid off when International Hotel School Sandton was announced as the winner of R5000. “It is a humbling experience for us to see our students achieve such a great accolade and to see their smiles filled with pride,” says Pierre.