A SKILLS training centre based at the EP Child and Youth Care Centre in Port Elizabeth is giving young adults who would potentially be at risk otherwise the opportunity to become qualified in various fields, including in hospitality, and its staff’s efforts are seeing lives transformed in the process.
The hospitality course offered at the Ray Mhlaba Skills Centre, in particular, has delivered many success stories, particularly from students coming through its Conyngham’s Coffee Shop programme since its inception seven years ago.
The cafe, which is at the EP Child and Youth Care Centre premises in Conyngham Road, was initially a partnership between the home and the Wilderness Foundation, said project manager Caroline Ferreira.
While the Wilderness Foundation is no longer involved, the aim remains to empower vulnerable and displaced youth between the ages of 18 and 25.
“Some of them are from children’s homes or have lost one or both parents; others live in child-headed households or in households without formal income.
“After completion of the one-year training programme, which includes a theory component and in-service training at Conyngham’s, the students, who are referred to us from all over the city, have a better chance of securing employment. Some of our students have received permanent placements at the likes of the exclusive Mount Nelson and One & Only hotels in Cape Town, and here in PE at No 5 Art Boutique Hotel. We’ve also placed students at the Boardwalk and Finnezz.
“One of our many graduates who has gone on to excel is Marius, head chef at Addo’s Kuzuko Lodge, whose passion for food started at Conyngham’s.This is also where he learnt leadership skills and to better interact with people.
“And Mandilaki, the head chef at Finnezz, told us he was grateful he could learn in an environment where he received so much love and support. It would stay with him forever, he said.”
Through Conyngham’s the centre also provides catering services and the coffee shop, popular with businesses in the area, is also the venue of choice for weekly Rotary meetings, Caroline said.
A baking course has recently been added and already there has been buy-in from retail chains like Pick n Pay and Spar which have agreed to offer internships to some of the students, Caroline said.
“More than 100 students have graduated from the hospitality programme, of which about 80% have gained employment in the hospitality industry.”
Course facilitator Nezisa Bambani, who hails from Queenstown and is overseeing the current crop of hospitality students, has shared a recipe for a dish that is a popular “special” at the cafe:
Recipe: Baked fish with orange buttermilk sauce
This recipe serves 4-5
1 kg kingklip or kabeljou
2ml each salt and paprika
1 onion, finely chopped
75ml white wine
250ml fresh orange juice
50ml chopped parsley
5 ml French mustard
150 ml buttermilk
Pinch of salt
Mix flour, salt and paprika and coat fish with it. Arrange in a lightly greased baking dish to fit and set aside.
Heat oil and saute onion. Sprinkle in flour, then slowly stir in white wine and orange juice.
When sauce thickens, add remaining ingredients and simmer briefly, adjusting seasoning,
Pour over fish and bake in pre-heated oven at 180°. Cover for about 15 min.
Uncover and bake for further 10-15 min until fish is done and sauce starting to bubble.
Serve with risotto and green peas or baby potatoes and broccoli.