The Amy Foundation, formerly the Amy Biehl Foundation, has been working for the last 22 years to provide students in the Cape Town area with opportunities for enrichment. One of the ways in which they achieve this is through their Youth Skills Development programmes, one of which focuses on hospitality.  Here, we share the story of Siyabulela Booi, a young chef from Gugulethu who enrolled in the programme two and a half years ago, and is on his way to France to for a six-week sponsored internship at Le Calabash Ecole Culinaire.

Siyabulela Booi first enrolled in the Amy Foundation Youth Skills Development Programme in 2016 and later completed a one-month internship at the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa. During that time he worked both in the kitchen and front of house, but he found that his passion was for the culinary arts. He continued on in the Programme, learning as much as he could, before joining Vineyard Hotel in Newlands for a six-month internship where he worked as a trainee chef. After completing the internship, the Vineyard Hotel team offered to sponsor his training further, covering 50% of his expenses to take a three-year diploma course at the SA Chefs Academy.

Currently, he’s going into his third year of study and is specialising in pastry. He continues to work at the Vineyard Hotel as a trainee chef, attending college for one day of the week, and, after his six week-long sponsored internship at Le Calabash Ecole Culinaire, will return to his position at the Vineyard Hotel. The young chef hasn’t forgotten his roots either – on his off days, he still helps out at the Amy Foundation by volunteering as a junior facilitator in the Youth Skills Development Hospitality Programme.

Siyabulela’s future plans are tied to what he said is his continuing growth as a chef. He will continue at the Vineyard Hotel while building his resume, and eventually he would like to be an executive or private chef. His ultimate goal is to own his own restaurant. “Because of the opportunities the Foundation provided me I see my future and it is exciting,” Siyabulela said. “I wonder where I would be without them?”

According to Tracey Younghusband, the Hospitality Programme’s facilitator, “Siyabulela is a great inspiration to our new students and a wonderful mentor.”

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