How to Become a Chef in South Africa: All you need to know

We live in South Africa, and when our son indicated an interest in becoming a chef, we were concerned about what he needed to do to achieve his dream. To give him every advantage, together with him, we researched what exactly one needs to do to become a chef in South Africa. In this article, we share our findings in the hope of helping other future chefs and their parents.

To become a chef in South Africa, you do a professional chef program at a licensed culinary school to attain a higher certificate, diploma, or degree in culinary or patisserie, qualifying you as an entry-level Commis Chef. You now work your way past several chef ranks to an Executive, top-rank chef.

What do you learn at Culinary school?

A culinary school is a learning-focused environment where you gain theoretical knowledge and practical skills in culinary arts to prepare food and create tasty and visually appealing meals.

Patisserie training is another discipline that can be learned at culinary studios for those who want to master the art of pastry making and baking.

Broadly, the training includes creating quality cuisine, pastries, or cakes, and managing a kitchen and occurs under various chef instructors so that you benefit from their vast experience and mentorship. On-the-job, industry training forms an integral part of culinary training, and the combined effect of this training prepares you for real-life work as a chef.

While it is not strictly necessary to go to culinary school, it can be a great advantage in your culinary career, making you eligible for the job market, especially as you start adding culinary experience to your education.

What are the high school requirements to become a chef in South Africa?

As culinary schools may differ in their requirements, it is essential to make sure of the specific entry requirements of the culinary school you favour to make sure you meet these.

These are generally the requirements listed by most culinary schools:

Grade requirement:

A Grade 12/Matric is the preferred requirement. However, many culinary schools accept Grade 10 learners into their programs.

Graduates of matric equivalent courses are also accepted, provided it is a nationally accredited matric equivalent. An example is the GED matric equivalent, certified by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).

Subject requirement:

Most culinary schools require that you have taken English, Maths, or Maths literacy as school subjects.

As English is the medium of instruction, it is vital that learners show proficiency in reading and writing in English. Some schools require that learners undergo some assessment to demonstrate this ability.

Maths or Maths Literacy is a further requirement, as Maths is vital in measuring, costing, and managing a kitchen.

While not strictly necessary, subjects like Hospitality studies and Consumer studies are advantageous, providing you with a solid knowledge base for culinary school.

How long does it take to become a chef in South Africa?

A professional chef training program in South Africa takes about 1-3years to complete.

1-Year programs are often certificate courses; After a 2-3-year program, a learner is usually awarded a culinary diploma. It is essential to assess the content of the culinary training program to ensure that it prepares you competently as a chef.

A 1-year culinary training program is less expensive. Still, a longer one of 2-3 years is usually the better qualification as you gain more knowledge and practical experience, giving you more all-around preparation for your role as a chef. A more extended training program may also make you more eligible for employment. It is though more expensive.

Whether you complete a 1, 2, or 3-year chef training program, they all include time spent working in the kitchens of a restaurant, hotel, lodge, or catering company that the culinary school partners with to afford the culinary student on-the-job training.

How much does it cost to become a chef in South Africa?

Training costs depend on the specific culinary program you are completing and the length thereof.

In researching several culinary schools, this is what we found:

Length of Culinary ProgramCost Range of Full ProgramPer Annum Cost Range
One yearR60 000 – R89 000R60 000 – R89 000
Two yearsR121 000 – R170 000R60 000 – R85 000
Three yearsR135 000 – R270 000R45 000-R90 000
Cost of Culinary Training in South Africa

While it is expensive to train as a chef because of overheads like food costs, instructor fees, and maintaining facilities, some culinary schools have reasonable prices and good curriculum content, so do your research. 

When evaluating the cost of training as a chef in South Africa, it is essential to:

  1. Evaluate the course content and the period for completing this.
  2. Compare training costs across various culinary schools.
  3. Find out what is included and excluded in these costs and when working out total costs, be sure to include these additional costs to give you a more accurate course price. Some culinary schools, for example, include or exclude the cost of uniforms, knives, and textbooks.

A great thing about culinary training is that it is about lifelong learning, and if you can only afford a 1-year training program, you can add to your education later.

You can also study part-time if full-time study is not an option. In touring different culinary schools, we met people completing their practical training at the culinary school while studying part-time. One such person owned a catering business and now wanted a culinary qualification to advance her business.

Where to study in South Africa to become a Chef?

There are several chef schools throughout South Africa. Here are five of the schools we researched:

  1. Johannesburg Culinary Patisserie School (JCPS)
  2. Capsicum
  3. HTA School of Culinary Art
  4. Capital Hotel School
  5. Guvon Hotels -Chef training

You can also visit the SA Chefs website for a list of culinary schools in your province:

How to choose a culinary school?

With several schools to choose from, it is crucial to make the right choice for you. Here are three-pointers:

  1. Make sure the culinary school you favor has the proper credentials. This includes associations with recognised culinary bodies in South Africa like The South African Chefs Association (SACA). This is a prime chef organisation in the country, responsible for regulating and overseeing culinary schools.
  2. Make sure that the culinary course you want to study at the school you favour qualifies you as a professional chef and has been nationally accredited by a recognised quality assurance body in South Africa, such as the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) and the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
  3. Research a few local culinary schools, make comparisons and draft a shortlist with your preferences. Follow this up by visiting or attending an open day at the school where you can evaluate things like the facilities such as the lab kitchen where you will train, the set-up of the school,  how you connect with the instructors, where the school is situated, and how accessible it is. From here, evaluate each school, considering what you liked and didn’t like and then making a choice.

For more information on finding the best culinary school, go here.

Recent Posts