February 20, 2019

Nico Celebrates A Decade Of Training New SA Chefs

This year Nico Lombard celebrates a decade of training new South African chefs.

Lombard – who lives in Alberton – has been the principal at the Boksburg campus of Capsicum Culinary Studio, South Africa’s leading culinary institute, for the past 10 years.

So what changes has he seen in the past 10 years at Capsicum and in the industry?

“Over the last few years, one of the obvious major changes was when Capsicum joined ADvTECH, becoming more of a powerhouse in the hospitality training arena. I’ve also noticed a change in the calibre of students, as more people become aware of the opportunities in the field through social media and television. The breadth of career opportunities locally has also increased over the years which is very exciting. With Capsicum’s international partners, students also have more opportunities to gain work experience abroad.”

Lombard – who says he has always loved food and hospitality from a young age – started working in restaurants at the age of 16. “I worked my way up from waiter to a manager and later became a restaurant owner. I completed qualifications in both hospitality management and as a chef. After 10 years in the industry, I decided on a change of pace and wanted to move into academia, so I joined the Capsicum team as principal of the Boksburg branch in 2009.”

The Alberton resident has been married for 17 years and has two children aged 12 and six:

“Both love spending time in the kitchen and might have inherited my foodie genes!”

What do you believe gives Capsicum an edge over its competitors?

Our passion and commitment to student life and the student experience. We also are committed to students who graduate with both practical and hands-on skills. We pride ourselves on the fact that most of our graduates find employment in the industry almost straight away.

Why do you think so many alumni have been successful?

Not only do our students have the knowledge that they’ve gained at Capsicum but they also have an impressive work ethic and understand that you have to work hard to be successful.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting to make a career in the hospitality industry?

Make sure you love the culinary industry. Work hard. Be willing to start at the bottom. Work the extra shift. Leave an establishment after a year or two to get more exposure. Network! Enter as many chefs’ competitions as you can. Read recipes and follow other chefs on social media and look at plating photos. Eat and taste everything. Play with your food! Immerse yourself in anything and everything regarding food.

You have been teaching for a decade at Capsicum – do you ever miss the professional kitchen?

I do miss the fast pace of the kitchen, the energy and the brotherhood environment you form from working in a professional kitchen. Being a Chef is something you can’t always explain to people. Being a Chef means you are a Chef for life. Food is in our blood. We think about food all the time. It is what we dream of and we read about it. We get to play with our food every day. It is our passion. It is our drive. It is a way of life. It is art. It is fast. To be a Chef in a professional kitchen is extremely hard, but that’s why we love it.

This is why I love being involved in shaping the next generation of Chefs’ hospitality future.

What are the latest food trends?

Affordable fine dining, local produce and South African heritage cooking. Craft whiskey is also showing promise as a 2019 trend, which I’m very excited about!

How do you rate the South African hospitality industry?

We are competing very well, compared with the international industry. I think we are up there!

What three ingredients would we always find in your kitchen?

Fresh herbs, garlic and chilli is a must. Ginger is also always there too. These ingredients will always add depth and character to any dish.

Can you also share with us your go-to recipe?

My children love my crispy chicken wings or succulent and sticky ribs. I love a good old curry. But one of our family favourites is Thai curry mussel soup (see recipe below) which is best when served with homemade bread

Six quick fire questions:

  • Sweet or savoury?

Sweet – crème Brulee or a baked cheesecake.

  • Fine dining or homemade meal?

Fine dining.

  • Nigella or Jamie?

Nigella. She is the dessert queen.

  • Red wine or white wine?


  • Paris, London, Rome or New York

New York.

  • Reading on the beach, wandering around an art museum or scuba diving?

Reading on the beach.



250g leeks

1 onion

1 garlic clove

1 tsp fresh ginger

500ml dry white wine

500ml cream

1 can of light coconut cream

1 litre chicken stock

3 tbl curry paste or to taste

500g clean mussels

A handful of coriander leaves


Finely chop the leeks, onion, garlic and ginger and sauté in a little oil. Add curry paste and allow to cook for 5 minutes over low heat. Add the chicken stock and white wine and bring to the boil. Add the mussels and cook for 10 minutes. Finish with the cream and coconut cream. Allow to simmer slowly, reduce and thicken slightly. Check for seasoning, add a pinch of salt if needed. Finish with the fresh coriander leaves and serve with warm crusty bread.