June 11, 2024

I want to be a chef: What do I choose and where do I study?

Elsu Gericke, Head of Head of Education and Development at the SA Chefs Association, unpacks the NQF and what it means when studying culinary qualifications in South Africa.

Any prospective culinary student or parent of a student should have a good understanding of the terminology used in South African education. Once this is understood, it is easy to navigate the education field and to spot the schools and programmes that offer you a path to your career.

To understand this, it is vitally important to know what the NQF is and what its objectives are. The National Qualifications Framework (NQF), run and managed by SAQA (The South African Qualifications Authority), is a comprehensive system for classifying, registering, publishing, and quality-assuring national qualifications.

The NQF is designed to develop each learner as well as the nation at large by:

  • Creating a single, national framework for learning achievements.
  • Facilitate access to, and mobility and progression within, education, training and career paths.
  • Enhance the quality of education and training; and
  • Accelerate the redress of past unfair discrimination in education, training and employment opportunities.


It is important that the institution you are going to do your training at is accredited or registered by one of the Quality Councils, The CHE (Council on Higher Education), the QCTO (Quality Council of Trades and Occupations) or UMALUSI (the Council for quality Assurance of General and Further Education and Training). It is also vitally important to ensure that qualifications offered are registered on the NQF. Programmes registered on the NQF means that after your studies, you will be certified with valuable, relevant and employable qualifications.

So, which culinary qualifications are relevant right now? Which ones should you be looking for? The QCTO has two full culinary qualifications and two part qualifications which serve the industry. The first is the Trade Qualification which will qualify the student as a Chef Artisan. This is the three-year Occupational Qualification Chef with the SAQA ID 101697. The next one is the Occupational Qualification Cook which is a one-year full qualification with the SAQA ID 102296.

The two part qualifications, Kitchen Hand and Food Handler which are part of the Cook qualification, serves as a pathway to the full qualifications and is perfectly suited to individuals that wish to enter the industry or for those in the industry who would like to further their careers while in the workplace.

Due to the Ministerial determination, documented in the Government Gazette of 3 June 2024 regarding the Ministerial Directive on Implementation and Transitional Arrangements for Pre-2009 Qualifications. TVETS will have to align their qualifications to that of an occupational qualification with QCTO. It is best to be prepared and implement as soon as possible to ensure nobody is without further education and training opportunities.

Many of the international programmes have been embedded into the culinary industry. However, it is important to note that these programmes are not recognised in South Africa, and they are not credit bearing. This means that you will not receive credits should you wish to change your career path and study other hospitality qualifications in SA.