CHEF Mark Coombe is the genial principal at the Pretoria campus of Capsicum Culinary Studio. Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)
UK-BORN chef Mark Coombe continues to make his mark in the hospitality industry in South Africa.

Coombe is the general principal at the Pretoria campus of Capsicum Culinary Studio.

He has been working for Capsicum Culinary Studio for the past five years and has been principal for more than two years. He started out as a lecturer at the Johannesburg campus.

Coombe has more than 20 years experience in the catering industry. He's done it all - from working in a coffee shop and restaurants at the age of 16 to running chalets in the French Alps, and becoming the executive chef of two successful restaurants in the UK.

“It is a small village, so during summer holidays you are always looking for jobs to earn pocket money. I started working in a coffee shop and restaurant washing the dishes. The next thing I wanted to prepare salads, and that is how I got my passion for cooking.”

After growing up in the kitchen, he scooped his first catering qualification and went on to work in France for three years where he ran a kitchen. He then returned to the UK to run yet another kitchen.

“I was then given the chance to come to South Africa and, while here, I ran my own restaurant for two years and then consulted.

“Now I have been afforded the amazing opportunity to be the principal at Capsicum Culinary Studio and pass on what I have learnt to a new generation.”

He applauded how the meat was cut and prepared in South Africa. “The meat here is very good; the beef cuts are excellent. I love to braai and obviously because the weather is so nice over here, you can braai any time of the day or week. In the UK you have to plan a barbecue.”

He urged culinary students to prepare for the tough hospitality industry, saying cooking was all about preparation, focus and doing well, which would help in the long run in the industry.

“I tell my students that being in the hospitality industry is hard work. It is not glamorous, but the rewards can be impressive. Things are always changing in the culinary world.

“That's part of what makes the industry so exciting. My top tip would be to try to broaden your horizons by travelling and experiencing a variety of catering cultures to increase valuable knowledge.”

He said being a chef was not easy - it was always hectic, but the experience was worth it.