UK en­tre­pre­neur gives Cape youth a hand

Jamie Oliver-type train­ing project comes to SA

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PEOPLE - VUYO MABANDLA

GROW­ING UP in Lon­don, a young Tony Elvin al­ways ad­mired trou­bled youngsters who turned their lives around by mak­ing it big in the busi­ness world.

Now 45, Elvin, born to Ja­maican par­ents, is him­self a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man with years of ex­pe­ri­ence.

Elvin has helped to set up pi­o­neer­ing pro­grammes for dis­ad­van­taged youths in the UK, in­clud­ing chef Jamie Oliver’s Fif­teen Foun­da­tion, which trains young peo­ple in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try.

Elvin has brought his ca­reer-build­ing skills to South Africa with a sim­i­lar project.

“We are tar­get­ing young peo­ple who are pas­sion­ate about cook­ing, wine tast­ing and manag­ing food out­lets, but whose lives have been tainted by crime and drug abuse and who lack for­mal train­ing,” said Elvin.

The project, es­tab­lished through his NGO Di­a­mond Five Trust, will see trou­bled youth in the Wester n Cape prov­ince re­ceiv­ing ex­ten­sive train­ing in the in­dus­try, which faces a crit­i­cal skills short­age.

Ho­tels, lodges and restau­rants need thou­sands of pro­fes­sional chefs, wait­resses and bar­tenders in time for the World Cup.

Stephen Billing­ham, pres­i­dent of the Pro­fes­sional Chefs As­so­ci­a­tion, said the coun­try is short of thou­sands of chefs. “The Di­a­mond Five Trust pro­gramme will save us from em­bar­rass­ment. There are 24 ho­tels open­ing up in the next few months and the trainees will be much-needed.”

Elvin said the train­ing would be done through five schools around the prov­ince – in Langa, Khayelit­sha, Gugulethu, Ceres and Cale­don – which would be­gin by teach­ing young peo­ple the ba­sics of cook­ing and use of pro­fes­sional cut­lery.

“We are in part­ner­ship with sea­soned pro­fes­sional chefs and cor­po­rate es­tab­lish­ments in­clud­ing restau­rants, ho­tels, lodges and farms, which will pro­vide the trainees with the chance to also get ad­vanced prac­ti­cal skills in real work­ing en­vi­ron­ments,” he said.

The project has been four years in the plan­ning and has been well re­ceived.

Elvin said the idea came af­ter he met for­mer street child turned pro­fes­sional chef Mkhanyiseli “MK” Kapa, 26, while he was on a busi­ness trip to Cape Town in 2004.

“MK was liv­ing in a shel­ter and he had im­mense in­ter­est in be­ing a chef. That kid had am­bi­tions and I was touched. I de­cided to or­gan­ise for him to be sent to the UK to join Jamie’s Fif­teen Foun­da­tion and he be­came a mas­ter chef.”

Kapa now works at a Cape Town ho­tel.

Vuy­isa Enoch Zaleni, 28, of Kraai­fontein, said af­ter he fin­ished ma­tric in 2002 he bat­tled to raise the money to study wine-mak­ing.

“I then heard of the Fif­teen Foun­da­tion and was lucky to get a spon­sor to at­tend the course there for a few weeks. I re­turned to SA with a lot of ex­per­tise and got fund­ing from my em­ployer to study at Stel­len­bosch. Now I’m an ex­pe­ri­enced wine taster,” said Zaleni.

Zaleni and Kapa said they would con­trib­ute to the school.

Elvin said that the scheme would cost mil­lions but was con­fi­dent that his five part­ners at Tony Elvin As­so­ci­ates would se­cure enough fund­ing.

Billing­ham said the Chefs As­so­ci­a­tion would sup­port the project, soon to be rolled out in other prov­inces.

PIC­TURE: SAM CLARK

MAK­ING IT BIG: Tony Elvin, left, and his for­mer stu­dent-turned-busi­ness part­ner Go­liath Booy­sen.

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