Youth taught hospitality skills

Student Tiso Ayabonga is busy with in-service training.

A Salt River non-profit is training unemployed youth to work in the hospitality industry.

Cooktastic offers 18-to-26-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds a four- month training course to help them succeed as a chef or waiter.

The training is three-fold, with four weeks work-readiness training, eight weeks basic culinary training and four weeks in-service training.

The plan is to have three yearly intakes of 24 students.

Cooktastic is the brainchild of Mbuyi Jongqo, who spent five years as a programme and job-placement manager mentoring young people.

Ms Jongqo said they had held recruitment drives in various communities, advertised on social media and invited interested youth to an open day with industry experts.

From 50 interested students they had to choose 24.

The Rotary Club of Australia and crowd funding had helped to get the initiative off the ground and cover most of the course’s R22 000 cost but students had to put down a R1 200 commitment fee, Ms Jongqo said.

Students from the first intake are now doing their in-service training, but it has been a baptism of fire for the non-profit, which launched the course two weeks before the national lockdown. During this time, training had to be held online.

The Rotary Club of Sea Point helped the organisation get the necessary paperwork in July so students could launch a bread project during lockdown to feed needy communities.

Ms Jongqo said lockdown had been hard on the students, but they had gained a lot of experience and were now working in the industry at reputable establishments.

“For many of these students, this has been a dream come true, working in areas such as Sea Point, Camps Bay and Constantia.”

Ms Jongqo said Cooktastic, like many other non-profits, was struggling with funding at the moment.

Farhat Danyal, president of the Rotary Club of Sea Point, said they had reached out to the community and their sister clubs to support the project.

“This is an excellent initiative, and we want to see it grow to help equip more unemployed youth.”

Amyna Salomo, from Brooklyn, said the course had allowed her to be trained by skilled chefs and had also boosted her self-esteem. She is doing her in-service at Bilboa in Camps Bay.

“I am thankful for the opportunity I got to take part in this course. I always wanted to be a chef but did not know how I could make it happen. This is something I will carry with me.”