Of course, being rated one of the best chef schools in the world by an acclaimed international body is important.
Of course, winning numerous awards for culinary education excellence and contributions towards this field is important.
Of course, producing award-winning chefs and culinary professionals who are setting benchmarks in the industry is important.
But what is even more significant in choosing the best culinary school for your future studies, is what current and recently graduated students are advocating about their culinary journey. What are ICA students – those individuals that are actively undergoing the actual education process at the ICA – saying about their experience?
Nadia Meyer embarked on her first placement in the industry with nervous apprehension – only to realise that the public image of what happens in a top restaurant kitchen is a lot different to how the ICA equips students to function in a world-class professional environment. Cheffing is an age-old occupation that deserves to be highly admired but has been hugely misrepresented in the media during recent years, labelling the profession as one consisting of flaring tempers, endless negative criticism and constant heated arguments. ICA students are placed under the guidance of carefully selected chef-mentors that continue their culinary education off-campus but in line with ICA standards of training excellence. Graduates have then experienced such mentorship and are encouraged in turn become mentors in their own right to future young chefs, persisting in the vision to restore culinary arts to the superior professional status that it deserves.
“To be honest, I was terrified. The door stood before me, daunting. From my point of view, it had bright neon warnings, urging me to turn around. My breathing became shallow, my hands clammy, and my heart banging on my ribcage. Everything started to spin as I turned the handle.
I felt somewhat disgruntled as I walked into the kitchen at Camphors @ Vergelegen. There was no yelling, no pots and pans flying around from one end to the other, no big scary chefs with big scary knives, no chaos. Then I met chef Michael Cooke. I was overwhelmed with how different it was to what I was expecting. Thinking back now, my assumptions were quite childish, to say the least! Don’t get me wrong – the hard work and intense attention to detail were more than adhered to. But over the last few months, I experienced something extraordinary.
Chef Michael has gained a lot of experience over the years through working at establishments like Greenhouse Restaurant under the guidance of ICA Graduate Peter Tempelhoff. While being Chef Peter’s mentee, he greedily sponged up all the knowledge he could and evolved. He adjusted his way of doing and thinking to be better, more creative, more skilled, wiser and ultimately becoming the authentic Chef Michael he is today. It is amazing to see someone with such a vast amount of passion for food, and even more remarkable to see someone with the enthusiasm to share that passion!
‘Camphors is a learning environment’. You are encouraged to ask questions and you get bombarded with knowledge. All staff are involved in all changes, but most excitingly, you are given the opportunity to experiment and inevitably make mistakes. Failing at something is never meant to discourage but to motivate. It allows you to try again and again and again and remains the best way to really acquire a new skill.
This surprised and impacted me the most. The fact that I had the opportunity to learn from errors is one of the reasons I loved it so much. I really hope that one day I will also be able to give someone else such an opportunity. Thank you, Chef Michael.
– Nadia Meyer: ICA 2nd year student – 3 Year Diploma in Advanced Culinary Arts, Advanced Pâtisserie & Specialist Culinary Field
The ICA follows a firm Placement Policy whereby students are not placed at an establishment, but rather under the guidance of a chosen chef-mentor. Students are closely evaluated throughout their academic year and the most suitable mentor is carefully selected by taking strict principles and criteria into account. The only way that such a careful selection can be made achievable, is by maintaining the ICA’s unique, focussed lecturer-to-student average ratio of 1:6.