March 1, 2021

Capsicum Culinary Studio: The Sweet Life

Capsicum Culinary Studio is the largest chef school of its kind in South Africa, with six campuses across the country, in Boksburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria and Rosebank, Johannesburg.

In the 17 years since it was established, Capsicum has produced more than 5 000 alumni, many of whom have become hugely successful – both in South Africa and on the global stage. Their employers range from luxury yacht owners to boutique eateries and large multi-national hotels and resorts. Others have taken the entrepreneurial route and established their own thriving hospitality-inspired businesses and consultancies.

Three recent Capsicum graduates that stand out, include 21-year-old Harris Hlungwani who started his own catering company, Generis Taste, last year specialising in corporate catering, private chef services and custom-made cakes. Hlungwani, who hails from Kempton Park, graduated from Capsicum in 2018 with a Diploma in Food Preparation and Cooking.

Harris Hlungwani

“For me, the biggest advantage in studying at Capsicum was getting taught by lecturers who have real experience in the food industry and have acquired a lot of knowledge and skills which they are willing to pass down to the students,” he says.

Generis Taste is now flying and Hlungwani is already looking at expanding to keep up with demand, while he contemplates opening his own restaurant, called @KOO-HU, in 2021. His five-year goal is for his company to grow big enough to be able to provide catering for national and international presidential guest and celebrities.

At the age of three, Isla Rechner was already obsessed with TV cooking shows, so it’s not surprising that she has gone on to be the Group Pastry Chef for all four branches of celebrity chef Bill Granger’s Grange & Co restaurants located across London.
Rechner grew up in Kloof in KZN and, after high school, enrolled at Capsicum’s Durban campus for a Patisserie Diploma. Following graduation, she moved to London, working initially at one of acclaimed chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s eateries, before being hired as a pastry chef at a branch of Granger & Co. A year later, she was looking after all four outlets.

Rechner attributes a lot of her success to her time at Capsicum: “I think Capsicum sets up their training in such a way that it ensures that students receive a holistic look at the industry. As well as the practical side of things, it also focuses on the theory of food. Once you have a strong foundation you can build on it with every experience, making you a better chef. I think Capsicum alumni have a strong work ethic and good teamwork ethos, hence why there are so many successful graduates.”

This is a view shared by Heidelberg-born Hendrik Pretorius who, after graduating from Capsicum in 2017, accepted a position in Dubai in the pastry section of a Japanese concept restaurant called Kyo Café and Lounge. After 17 months there, he moved to the Dubai Renaissance Hotel and worked in their Morimoto Restaurant before being offered a job as a pastry chef at Simpli, one of the top eateries in Lisbon.

Hendrik Pretorius

Locals and visitors to the Portuguese capital have awarded the venue five stars on Trip Advisor and rave about the cookies, cakes and other pastries that Pretorius makes daily on the premises. He’s even started introducing them to South African favourites such as melktert and cinnamon cookies (which he learned to make from his mother), but with his own twist and take on the original recipes.

When he’s not whipping up tasty treats in the Simpli kitchen, Pretorius can be found busy working on his first cookbook which will be called The Sweet Life which, he says “will not be a normal recipe book, but a combination of recipes – some my own, some shared – but each with their own story and part of my culinary journey so far.” To join the growing list of successful alumni, why not consider enrolling at Capsicum for one of their full or part-time courses, or their online course, Chef 101, developed and delivered in partnership with Lobster Ink and the Culinary Institute of America.

For more information, visit or call  011 234 1896.