The Importance of Culinary Heritage
Culinary inspiration from Cass Abrahams
It is not an everyday occurrence that chef students get the opportunity to learn from a legend.
The ICA has a long history with Cape Cuisine Revolutionary, Cass Abrahams and it was an honour to welcome this formidable, humble culinary idol into the training kitchens of the Institute of Culinary Arts during the first year syllabus period for South African cuisine. ICA first-year students eagerly followed Cass’ witty and informative presentation about her own history and subsequently her culinary success. Her involvement with the ICA began over 30 years ago with ICA Principal, Letitia Prinsloo, often serving dishes inspired by Cass’ Cape Malay recipes to international guests in her award-winning restaurant, La Maison, in Pretoria.
Later, a personal friendship developed and many culinary exchanges paved the way for a long and very special relationship.
When Cass and her husband Jowa decided to send their son, Zaid, to culinary school, it was the ICA they chose.
“Because it is only at the ICA that discipline – in all aspects of the culinary arts as well as on a personal development level – is instilled in students in order to help grow and shape successful future chefs. The ICA not only teaches the ‘how’, but also the ‘why’, and thát is incredibly important.
Food embodies memories and history, it tells a story of your identity and where you belong. I value the fact that ICA students are educated in the history and importance of South African cuisine. It builds bridges!”
Cass has been privileged to travel the world through cooking. When asked how South African chefs are comparing to their peers globally, she mentions names like Kobus van der Merwe and Peter Tempelhoff – both ICA alumni – as leaders that stand their ground on a global stage. These results resonate entirely with Letitia’s vision of creating a platform to train local chefs who can compete on an international level, which was how the ICA came to be.
“The ICA’s standard just doesn’t drop! That’s what sets it apart from other chef training institutions.”
Intensive and focused training conducted under an average student-to-lecturer ratio of 6:1 enables the ICA to maintain these exceptional standards through a simple philosophy of training excellence. The emphasis has always been on classical foundation training, equipping ICA students to challenge conformity by pushing boundaries and setting benchmarks, standing out in the food industry as sought after culinary professionals.
Leaving a lasting impression with both students and staff alike, Cass departed with words of inspiration for students to stay true to themselves, to always – much like when cooking with spices – find balance and to keep evolving through learning.
“Food is an emotional medium to work with – your energy is transferred to the food you create which in turn gets transferred to the person who eats it. It is a huge honour to be a chef and a privilege to have your own energy nourish someone else’s body.”