GARDEN ROUTE NEWS - Michelle de Jager started her journey as a chef at the François Ferreira Academy in 2017.
Having grown up in Mossel Bay, she opted to study close to home, not only for convenience but since she had her sights set on making her mark in the Garden Route.
She successfully completed her Diploma in Food Preparation and Cooking, at the Academy. For her industry internship, she was placed at the well-known Café Gannet situated in Mossel Bay and then gained more practical experience at Reed Valley. Michelle won the Jeune Chefs Rotisseur competition September 2019, setting her up for success. She completed her Diploma at François Ferreira Academy in 2020.
Now, at the youthful age of 24, chef Michelle is cooking up a storm at The Succulent, at Reed Valley in Mossel Bay, which she opened in mid-2020. Her success story has already featured on several local television magazine programmes like Fiesta and Leef Jou Reis. Michelle's culinary skills has led to a fully booked restaurant week on week.
"My decision to study local was also motivated by my desire to stay in the area I love and where I wanted to start my business. By being part of the community, it is much easier to see what people like and respond to," she says.
Among the most valuable lessons learnt at the François Ferreira Academy, Michelle notes the importance of preparation.
"Don't take shortcuts, preparation is everything. Faulty preparation affects overall performance."
She says her life and career is guided by the culinary and life skills she learnt at the Academy. "Be thorough. Listen. Stay humble. Always be 10 minutes early." Her recommendation of the Academy as a study institution of choice, is based on offering the perfect balance between traditional, classical cheffing and vibrant, modern cooking techniques. "We did everything, from pizza master classes to 17th century bread baking to molecular gastronomy. And the exposure to a variety of cultural cooking was amazing."
Michelle is an upcoming businesswoman in the Garden Route and has her sights set on continuing to broaden her horizons. This may include starting a restaurant in Portugal.
As for young people in the Garden Route who view the area as limited in terms of opportunities to study and work, she disagrees. "Just try it. Find out about job shadowing. There are plenty of emerging businesses. One way to learn what it is what you want to do, is to position yourself in the marketplace. Anyone reading this article who wants to try out my kitchen and see if they would like to become a chef, my doors are open."
And it seems as if this young lady puts her money where her mouth is. "My sous chef started here not knowing what he wanted to do in life. After three days, I offered him a job. Now, we are working towards sponsoring his studies at the Academy."
For more about the François Ferreira Academy, visit www.francoisferreira.co.za.
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