Restaurant Showcase - Ten Minutes with Elsu Gericke

Elsu Gericke, Head of Professional Body and Skills Development at SA Chefs, shares her insight into the industry with us.

A woman who has worked in the culinary industry for over a decade, Elsu Gericke brings a wealth of knowledge on training and skills development to the industry. Her career has spanned Prue Leith as Hot Kitchen Senior Lecturer, Executive Chef at Toadbury Hall and Coach House Orion Group, and since 2013 she has headed up the Professional Body and Skills Development at the SA Chefs Association. We chat with her to find out more.

Your thoughts on chef training in SA – are we up to standard? Where can we do better?

Chef training in South Africa is of a very high standard and our graduates are a sought after artisans at home and abroad. The current QCTO Occupational Qualification, which is being implemented in culinary institutions, is definitely going to raise the bar with regards to the skills and knowledge that the young chefs will have when entering the workplace.

This being said, there is always room for improvement and a lot of the development and ultimate success of the young chefs are dependent on the mentorship they are given in their workplaces.  Chefs need to ensure that they continuously upskill and encourage lifelong learning in junior chefs.

What does your role at SA Chefs entail, and how do you ensure young chefs’ skills are being properly developed?

I am the Head of Professional Body and Skills Development for the South African Chefs Association which has afforded me the opportunity to play a pivotal role in the development of the Occupational Qualifications Chef and Cook, as well as the design of the assessments for these qualifications. This involvement has placed SA Chefs in a position to be the bridge between the culinary industry and education.

I work closely with education departments such as the QCTO, NAMB, DHET, CATHSSETA and SAQA and this ensures that SA Chefs always have their finger on the pulse of any educational developments. Our individual and training provider members thus have the added benefit of consulting SA Chefs for guidance and information regarding the culinary education landscape.

What are the challenges of professionalising the industry?

There are numerous challenges that hinder the professionalisation of the industry:

  • People appointed in chef positions that they are not qualified or skilled for.
  • Salary budgets: entry-level salaries are discouraging youth to enter into the profession and is disproportionate to the high cost of culinary training.
  • Lack of understanding and knowledge of what the trade entails is leading to youth not being encouraged to pursue cheffing as a profession.
  • The industry not driving participation in professional body programmes such as designation and not promoting membership to their staff.
  • The cultural stigma of ‘men do not cook’ hinders uptake of talent in the industry.

Fortunately, the National Department of Tourism has identified that professionalisation of the culinary industry as key and is busy implementing various projects to drive the process.

What campaigns are SA Chefs currently running to grow interested in the culinary arts?

SA Chefs is involved in various, year-round, projects aimed at informing scholars of the industry such as the NTCE (National Tourism Career Expo) and InfoChef.  At both of these events, SA Chefs endeavours to educate attendees on the benefits of entering into the culinary field. Throughout the year, SA Chefs also ensures that members are kept up to date through articles in the SA Chef magazine and through social media.

Any last words on education?

Culinary education is going through some valuable changes and we beseech the industry chefs out there to embrace these and get involved with what is happening to ensure they keep up to date.

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