CORE VALUES – The Cornerstones Upon Which Your Future is Built

Not only do core values shape the way chefs cook, but also how they conduct themselves in the kitchen and the broader culinary arena.

The Institute of Culinary Arts (ICA) in Stellenbosch has long been regarded as a premier institution for culinary education. The school has a rich history of producing exceptional chefs who go on to make significant contributions to the culinary world.

One such success story is Hylton Espey and his wife, Petro, both ICA graduates, whose UK-based restaurant, Culture, has earned a Michelin Green Star for Sustainability and recently Three Rosettes from the AA Hospitality Awards.

According to Hylton, ICA taught him that presentation goes beyond mere aesthetics; it’s about exciting, surprising and engaging your client through storytelling on a plate. At ICA, students are encouraged to develop their unique plating style and flavours. This emphasis on presentation extends to the kitchen itself, as cleanliness, organization and efficiency are paramount. Espey recalls the advice of ICA Principal, Letitia Prinsloo to “walk with purpose, walk like a chef”. This lesson has stayed with him throughout his career where he still arrives for work with a clean, freshly ironed chef uniform, ready to start the day with pride and professionalism.

Punctuality is another critical value instilled in ICA students. Arriving at least ten minutes early for class was the norm and Hylton highlights how this discipline has benefited him throughout his career – being early for interviews leaves a positive impression; having work completed on time allows for extra time to experiment or focus on other tasks; being able to plan daily prep efficiently results in maximum productivity.

The difference in work ethic and skills between ICA graduates and students from other institutions becomes apparent during industry placements.

Hylton comments that “chefs trusted ICA students to uphold high culinary standards, granting them more responsibility and autonomy. These restaurants were leading the culinary scene at the time and reflecting on it now, I realise what a privileged position I had so early in my career.”

Hylton’s journey from an ICA student to prestigious international awards such as a Michelin Green Star and AA Rosettes is a testament to the school’s commitment to excellence. Although success can be measured in many different ways, one certain condition within this highly competitive arena is inclusion in revered and respected culinary circles.

Alongside other ICA alumni like Peter Tempelhoff, Callan Austin, Kobus van der Merwe and Angelo Scirocco – cooking and being awarded amongst acclaimed names such as Massimo Bottura (twice awarded No. 1 chef in the world – Osteria Francescana, Italy); Virgillio Martinez (2023 World’s Best Restaurant – Central, Peru); and Chef Shin Takagi (2 Michelin-starred chef – Zeniya Kanzawa, Japan) – Hylton’s recent accolades have ensured that he is also counted amongst the best the industry has to offer.

Chefs like Paul Ainsworth and from restaurants like The Fat Duck, The Angel at Hetton and Le Manoir de Quarts Saisons have all played their part as Hylton’s role models and idols. Being able to rub shoulders with his culinary heroes is a major leap in the right direction.

Because the culinary world is constantly evolving, the ICA endeavours to adapt to modern culinary techniques whilst still honouring classic French culinary principles. This means students are not only trained in classical techniques that have stood the test of time, but are exposed to the latest trends and innovations, ensuring they are industry-ready upon graduation.

Prospective applicants can be confident that ICA will provide them with a solid foundation and the skills necessary to thrive in the culinary world – both now and in the future. Thirty years ago, Letitia Prinsloo (ICA Founder and Principal) set out to train world-class chefs right here on South African soil. Evidently, the dream has become a reality.

Join South Africa’s best training school for chefs who are respected and valued both locally and internationally.