Government learnership empowers young chef

Patience Nyongane (22) couldn’t afford to go to culinary school, but now owns her own catering company

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While many fret and wrack their brains about what to do after obtaining their matric certificates, taking the road less travelled helped 22-year-old Patience Nyongane realize her dream of owning her very own catering company.

Through an apprenticeship, the Kimberley-born chef was able to attain her qualification in cheffing with the Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA) in 2018. A year later Nyongane established a catering business called “Your Favourite Chef” after completing the 12-month CATHSSETA programme.

RECIPE: Braised oxtail and garlic mash

Nyongane says the programme offers youth an alternative to breaking into the hospitality industry on a dime. “Culinary schools are very expensive, and it’s very demotivating to know that you can’t get into one especially if you can’t afford one. There are learnerships and other opportunities that can be granted to you to make your dream come true.”

An apprenticeship with CATHSSETA helped Nyongane realize her dream of establishing her own catering company - "Your Favorite Chef"
An apprenticeship with CATHSSETA helped Nyongane realize her dream of establishing her own catering company – “Your Favorite Chef”

While it was disheartening to know that her peers “give up on their dreams once they realize the expenses of culinary schools,” Nyongane urges the youth to seize every available opportunity.

The chef enrolled with CATHSSETA after completing her matric at the Boston City College. The government programme gives learners the opportunity to complete cheffing theory and practical work experience at one of their flagship locations. She adds that it is still surreal that she has managed to make it through the first year of being a small-business owner.

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“I still can’t believe that I came this far with just a learnership and no culinary school experience. So, they shouldn’t feel demotivated when they learn the culinary school prices. There will always be other opportunities. They just need to put themselves out there and believe in themselves and hustle!” Nyongane exclaims.

While many of her peers dream of having corporate jobs, Nyongane says she was never really interested in any other career options.

She knew she wanted to be a chef at the age of 11 already.

“I’ve always liked working with food,” she says, adding that her passion for food prompted her to pursue her catering venture. “I realized that this was meant for me. I actually tried and considered other career options, but I didn’t have that passion for it. That’s when I realized that food was actually where my heart was at.”

In her year-long venture, Nyongane has manged to build a name for herself in Kimberley in the Northern Cape. She was also featured on the Food Network’s cooking show Siba’s Table last year.

In just one year of business Nyongane attracted the attention of the Food Networks - Siba's Table
In just one year of business Nyongane attracted the attention of the Food Networks – Siba’s Table

Nyongane further advises youth to stand up for themselves and fight for their dreams while making decisions about their future. “You should follow your heart. You shouldn’t do anything, or follow a career to impress your parents or to make your parents happy or anyone else but yourself happy.”

The caterer advises young chefs who are looking into going into the industry to “take up space” and not shy away from taking the business risk in 2020. “No one is going to give you anything on a silver platter,” she says.

“People will always try and exploit young chefs, especially young chefs going into the private sector. I learned how to stand my ground and how to actually pick up dodginess when someone tries to exploit me. People aren’t really for you unless they can benefit from what you bring to the table.”

Nyongane dreams of expanding her client base into other parts of the country. “I’m hoping to grow my business. I’m hoping that my business will actually grow and that my clientele will expand. My life revolves around my work.”

RECIPE: Braised oxtail and garlic mash

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