Siyabulela Booi, Amy Foundation YSD learner, and Executive Chef Carl Van Rooyen of the Vineyard Hotel. Picture: Supplied

Cape Town - Young Gugulethu chef has jetted off to France to learn a few more tricks of the trade and polish his pastry-making skills.

Siyabulela Booi is on the 14-hour-long flight to the land of fine wine and cuisine to learn more about making pastries. He left his mother and two siblings on Thursday evening feeling “excited and scared” because he does not “know what to expect”.  

In 2016, Booi completed a one-month internship at the 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa, gaining experience in both front-of-house service and the kitchen. 

While there he found his passion -  the culinary arts.  After that first internship he continued in the Foundation's programme and spent several more sessions learning all he could. 

In December of that year, he joined the Vineyard Hotel and Spa in Newlands for a six-month internship, working as a trainee chef. Six months later, the hotel offered to sponsor Siyabulela’s further training after recognising his potential.  They would pay 50% of his expenses to take a three-year diploma course at the South African's Chefs Academy (Saca).  He accepted the offer and continued learning.

Booi had always had a passion for food but was not really sure where he would like to go with his life. It was only three years ago when he enrolled at the Amy Foundation that he unleashed the monster chef in him. 

“Growing up in an African family I always watched in admiration how food managed to bring families together. If you think about it, family gatherings, traditional gatherings, we always have big feasts where we share jokes and family stories around.  I grew up watching this and feeling good about food and family,” explained Booi.  

Though at this stage he was not planning on growing to become a chef, he still enjoyed spending his spare time in the kitchen with his grandmother. 

The young chef told Weekend Argus that he now wants to complete his studies and ultimately open up his own restaurant where he will serve a combination of French and African cuisine.  

“I want to expose people to the culture of different foods. I learnt that even the liquorice sweets have a rich culture and history behind them. One would have never thought that there is more to sweets than just it being a sweet,” he said.

Booi’s future plans are tied to what he said is his continuing growth as a chef. He will continue at the Vineyards while building his resume.  Eventually he would like to be an executive or private chef.  

His ultimate goal is to own his own restaurant.  

“Because of the opportunities the Foundation provided me I see my future and it is exciting”, he said. According to Tracey Younghusband, the Hospitality Programme’s facilitator, “Siyabulela is a great inspiration to our new students and a wonderful mentor”.

Booi returns home in six weeks.

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Weekend Argus