TWENTY-TWO chefs graduated at Dona@Balos Chef and Hospitality School in Maseru last Friday, in a development some culinary experts said would go a long way to reduce the shortage of qualified cooks in the local hospitality sector.
They graduated with Diploma qualification after undergoing 18-months of training while a total 83 who trained for four-months received some certificates.
Clad in their work coats, the director of ceremony explained that chefs were not expected to wear graduation gowns as this did not symbolise their readiness to work.
Among the guests were South African Chefs Association public relations officer, Madumo Monageng, who also has a cooking programme on E tv, in addition and a lecturer at HTA Culinary School; Sizwe Qubekhulu who is also from the South African Chefs Association; Kamo Thole who owns Bloemfontein Culinary and Pastry School; Director of Education in the Ministry of Education and Training Makhabane Setsoto; and local chef and restaurant owner Seitlheko Mopeli.
The graduation ceremony was followed by a red-carpet cocktail gala, which saw the graduates get out of their chef coats and dress-up to the classy occasion.
Addressing the graduates, Chef Mopeli encouraged the new qualified chefs to work hard to bridge the gap that exists in the hospitality sector.
“Lesotho is making strides in the culinary sector through programmes offered at Dona@Balos, which aim to develop the capacity of people passionate about culinary arts. This is going to ensure that our industry has qualified chefs who will contribute to growing the tourism sector,” Chef Mopeli said.
He said the gap in the sectors was also a concern in many countries outside Lesotho, adding that there was need to encourage high school leavers to opt for a career in culinary arts.
“The standards of training at Dona@Balos are high. I have employed some of the graduates and they have not disappointed me. It will be a great honour to soon meet you working in renowned establishments.”
Also speaking at the ceremony, Chef Qubekhulu encouraged the graduates to remain humble and take being qualified to translate to knowing everything. “If you are open to continued learning, you will learn more and become masters in this area. Don’t be afraid to ask the experts to gain experience.”
Chef Kamo added that some graduates may start by chopping onions in restaurants but that should not discourage them.
“You must focus on your goals and pay less attention to things that may divert your attention,” she said.
Chef Kamo said she discovered Dona@Balos via social media and was impressed by the work done by the owner of the school, Chef Donald Moletsane, in his efforts to transform Lesotho’s hospitality sector.
For his part, the renowned Chef Madumo echoed similar sentiments, advising the graduates that their success lay on continued learning. “Get closer to the experienced chefs and if you really love the industry, you will never feel like at times you have too much work to do,” Chef Madumo said.
Diploma graduates were fortunate to have done their internship programmes in Ghana and South Africa, in addition to competing in various international culinary contests, which is one of the innovations that makes Dona@Balos a “world-class” institution.
Speaking on behalf of the students, Rethabile Mokhali, a diploma graduate, said they will work hard to keep Chef Donald proud of them.
“It has been a very tough journey, but we persevered because we knew that where there is a will there is a way. Today we are happy to have fulfilled our dreams of being qualified chefs. Like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed but grows to become a huge tree, we will rise in this industry and make names for ourselves, flying the Dona@Balos flag high,” Ms Mokhali said.