We were incredibly lucky during our sojourn in Durban, South Africa, to be among the six “students” who attended the inaugural cooking demonstration class and ate the first meal there prepared by one of Africa’s leading young chefs, Jackie Cameron, at her eponymous School of Food & Wine in the picturesque town of Hilton, situated above the regional center city of Pietermaritzburg, about an hour’s drive northwest of Durban in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Having served for 12 years as the head chef at the award-winning Hartford House, a five-star boutique hotel in rural Mooi River (located in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa), Jackie left in 2014 in order to establish a unique cooking school in South Africa — a school to train the next generation of top chefs for the country, and not like “so many other chef schools out there that are just about making money.”
She is investing heavily in the school and the cooking facilities, using the best equipment from Italy and France and sourcing as many local ingredients as possible. We visited in March 2015 as the construction was in its last stages, with the school’s planned opening with 8 students in April 2015 (enrollment is expected to grow in the future to 15 students) in an 18-month course of instruction and internships.
Eight of the students will be able to live in rooms at the school on the property.
Jackie’s family home has been transformed and modernized into a state-of-the art facility while retaining its architectural and cultural heritage.
Jackie chose ELBA appliances for the school as the company is “personified by its Italian style, design and build technology… The eye-catching ELBA cookers shape a particular kitchen with confidence that promises to inspire, enhancing culinary creativity.” In order to procure top European professional kitchen equipment, Jackie works with Culinary Equipment Company, a local South African business that has been successfully grown into “South Africa’s ultimate kitchen shop” by its entrepreneurial founder, Wehrner Gutstadt. They were able to supply her with the Charvet cooking ranges (photographed below) that are designed with professional chefs in mind.
The School’s library is based upon Jackie’s recipe books from family members going back to her great-grand parents, along with a large assortment of “greatest hits” cookbooks from top chefs and writers.
Ed Schroeder’s new-age photographs of local Nguni cattle show his deep appreciation for the animals. Jackie chose his photographs for the school as his attention to detail — seen clearly in the eyes of his subjects — harmonises with the focus on perfection at the School.
As we toured the grounds, we sere struck by a painted “poster” (slogan) on a wall exterior to the back of kitchen of the planned public restaurant serving meals prepared by the student chefs.
Our next blog post will highlight the preparation of the delicious South-African cuisine luncheon that we were fortunate to enjoy in the former dining room (being transformed into a formal “board” room).