THE MAKING OF A CHEF
Students come to the ICA partially formed, but filled with potential and hope.
They remain for a season, a phase of their lives.
ICA lecturers shape, chisel, form, and mould.
The students receive, grow, are strengthened, and filled.
Then they step out – shining, strong, equipped, and whole.
It is the ICA’s responsibility to train world-class chefs that can fully stand their ground in a global culinary arena, armed with an internationally recognized qualification.
What exactly does being a chef mean? And why would anybody consider becoming a professional chef in the first place?!
The hours are exceptionally long. The physical strains of being on your feet for most of the day, most days of the week, are especially tough. Environments are usually fast-paced, there is a lot of pressure and stress levels often run extremely high. World-class chefs have to continuously work on their skill level, doing and re-doing many aspects of their creations over and over and over again. The heat is on, that’s for sure.
Could it be that it is precisely the proverbial ‘heat in the kitchen’ – the pace, the pressure, the adrenalin rush, and the pursuit of perfection – that drives chefs to keep doing it over and over and over? Professional athletes certainly perform at their best because of these elements. Could it, therefore, be the flame that fuels the passion to create?
Creating fine food needs devotion, dedication, and deliberate perseverance. Much like many other art forms such as painting, sculpting, poetry, dance, design, and music, chefs see a plate as their canvas, their medium on which to tell their story and express their own unique message.
Perhaps this is the reason why renowned composers and artists also found a creative outlet in food. The famous Italian composer, Rossini, composed (amongst others) the opera “The Barber of Seville” in the early 1800s and “William Tell” in 1829 at age 37. Not many people are aware of this, but William Tell was to be his last operatic work as he went into voluntary retirement right after its completion to devote his time to cooking for the next 39 years! He invented many recipes that are still well-known today and many chefs have since honored him with their own creations, explaining why over a hundred dishes today carry the tag “alla Rossini” in their names.
The French impressionist painter, Claude Monet, was an equally accomplished gourmand besides being an artistic genius. His culinary journals are filled with detailed recipes and notes about what he ate and with whom he shared his meals. Monet favoured recipes with rustic appeal and the use of only the freshest ingredients. Compiled into a beautifully curated cookbook, Claude Monet’s recipes remain a tribute to the painter and his legendary aesthetic creations to this day.
Because food in its very essence is meant to nourish, please, and share with others, it is no wonder that even great artists like Rossini and Monet chose this medium to further communicate with loved ones, patrons, and admirers.
If becoming a chef is about fame, reputation, money, celebrity status, or other forms of recognition within a relaxed and tranquil career milieu, then it is not the career for you.
Cheffing is ALL about passion.
Therefore, training at the ICA is centered around the age-old gastronomic principles of classical cooking. What makes something truly classic – literature, art, design, etc. – is the fact that it remains relevant throughout turbulent and changing times. Because the ICA’s curriculum is founded on classic gastronomic principles, coupled with the exact science of cause and effect between ingredients and methods, it remains significant in culinary education in the 21st century.
With the principles in place, students are then guided to develop and discover their own individual creativity and personal culinary style. They are mentored and encouraged to express their own personal culinary signature amongst their peers so as to be able to stand out in the crowd.
Besides thorough scientific theory and in-depth practical sessions in the campus training kitchens, the ICA equips students with additionally enriching subjects such as Food & Society (ie. does the media dictate culinary trends, or do culinary professionals set the benchmarks?), Product Development, Media Communication, Professional Wine Studies & Event Coördination and Entrepreneurship in Hospitality. The latter is of utmost importance in a world that favours multi-dimensional thought leaders and self-starters, because cheffing as a profession is still a business, whether it be your own or your employer’s.
Not only are students taught theoretically, but the ICA provides real, hands-on projects for collaboration with real clients and companies. Students are therefore exposed to all aspects of what such projects will entail, even before they enter the workplace, giving them a definite advantage.
Two examples of such projects in recent years are the complete re-invention of the restaurant at !Kwa-ttu cultural village on the West Coast in 2020 as part of the final year thesis of the entire group of 3rd-year students and recipe development for new product lines for Pescanova seafood, again a whole-group project.
A message from award-winning chef Christiaan Campbell (formerly at Boschendal and currently doing exciting things in the quaint little town of McGregor) reads: “We went to visit !Kwa-ttu last month. The team is evolving nicely still. Werlise (ICA graduate 2020) is holding the line. The team is enthusiastic. The work ethic has improved enormously and the dining experience keeps on getting better. Also, their business has turned around, so thank you for the support there.”
On 11 July, the ICA will host yet another expo on campus in collaboration with the Nueva Pescanova Group, exhibiting new recipes, food styling, and photographs to launch the company’s new product line. ICA 3rd-year students will once again showcase their best work to industry professionals and retailers as part of their final year assignment.
This is why the ICA takes a holistic approach to culinary education, providing full round, comprehensive, intensive training to develop chefs that can create and lead – as creative individuals as well as integrally part of a team.
With the challenges brought on the industry by the recent worldwide pandemic, it’s perfectly understandable to look at cheffing as a career choice with a magnifying glass. But if the pandemic showed us anything, it is that resilience and perseverance run in the veins of chefs. At the ICA, chefs are trained to be creative, to re-invent, create, and persist.
THIS IS THE MAKING OF A CHEF.