UK entrepreneur gives Cape youth a hand
Jamie Oliver-type training project comes to SA
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.
MAKING IT BIG: Tony Elvin, left, and his former student-turned-business partner Goliath Booysen.