While Tembisa’s Meshack Mabuza always dreamt of becoming a chef, it seemed like there were too many obstacles in his way. After he matriculated from Ponelopele Oracle Secondary School in Tembisa in 2014, he put his culinary aspirations on hold to earn money, first by working in a warehouse and later in a call centre.
Two years later, in 2016, his luck changed. He was in the first group of 72 aspiring chefs, waitrons and housekeepers that began their studies at the Peermont Hotel School at Emperors Palace. The school offers fully-funded sponsorships to young people from the Ekurhuleni area, and has to date provided 1114 learners with fully-funded sponsorships to the school.
“When I received the news that I was going to the hotel school I couldn’t believe it, and it was one of the best days of my life!” says Mabuza. “The PHS created a platform for me to make my mark as a young chef in this industry, with proper guidance and a good basic education. It (the school) also gave me all the tools I needed to make it to where I am now, and I’m just so grateful.”
He quickly shone, completing his theoretical training course under the guidance of Chef Lehan Botha of Celo (the training provider for the Peermont Hotel School) before moving onto his practical training in the kitchens of Emperors Palace. After graduating, he approached Chef David Higgs for a job at restaurant, Marble, and to his surprise Higgs gave him a chance, enabling the youngster to work and learn alongside one of the best-known chefs in the country.
Today, he is a Chef de Partie at Higgs’ new restaurant, Saint. Speaking about his time working with Chef Higgs, Meshack Mabuza comments, “He has taught me how to be an old school professional chef, from respecting my ingredients to mastering flavour combinations and creating great tasting, delicious food. When he moved me to Saint Restaurant as his Chef de partie, Chef Higgs started teaching me Italian cuisine and I’m still looking forward to learning from him because he has been my role model from the word ‘go’.”
“Meshack is a walking example of what can be achieved with talent, hard work, a touch of chutzpah and the help of a fully-funded learnership from Emperors Palace’s PCBT to attend the Peermont Hotel School,” says Jenny Findlay, Trust Manager at Peermont. “What he has achieved from such humble beginnings in such a short space of time just proves that if you can dream it, you can do it.”
Aspiring chefs can download the PHS application form at www.peermonthotelschool.co.za. Provided they comply with the application requirements, they can then complete and submit the forms with all the relevant documentation to firstname.lastname@example.org.