ICT was founded by Barry Berman and Spencer Moyana. The two met in 2008, when Barry was on his first visit to South Africa, and Spencer, originally from Zimbabwe, was working as a cook in Cape Town. They became friends and spent many hours discussing their respective countries, cultures and contemplating paths toward positive growth for South Africa.
The idea for Infinity Culinary Training was born in April of 2009. The mission was simple: to train South African men and women from Cape Town’s most impoverished communities and enable them to obtain jobs in restaurants.
Barry and Spencer knew that most of their students would have no knowledge of the professional kitchen. They also knew that no proper chef, regardless of his or her passion for food, could be molded in just twelve weeks. So the curriculum was designed to train people for entry-level positions, to supply the foundations of food theory, the basics of practical experience and the essential lessons of hygiene, safety and conduct required in the professional kitchen. On top of that add the emphasis for strong, interpersonal and communication skills. From there, the student would have a launch pad from which to control his or her destiny.
Support for the idea quickly rallied. The Gavin Relly Educational Trust offered the first seed money. Africa Spice of Johannesburg donated chef’s knives. Mowbray Farm Fresh and Fruit & Veg City gave the students weekend work. Banks Kitchen Shop assisted with the purchase of uniforms. Shine Models provided office space, vehicles and business expertise. Friends came bearing pots and pans. Chefs and restaurants agreed to interview the students for professional apprenticeships. A school room was located in District Six, complete with an under-equipped kitchen, and a small batch of eager students was found, all of whom were willing to work hard and commit to the program.
ICT opened its doors on September 14, 2009, five months after the birth of the idea. Spencer and Barry did all the teaching, student counseling, administration and fundraising. Guest chefs and lecturers were brought in weekly to offer the students different and growing perspectives on the often difficult, but potentially rewarding, world of the professional kitchen.
The students, primarily in their 20’s, learned not only to cook, but to respect, encourage and depend on one another. They were transformed from people with little confidence or hope to men and women with pride and initiative, with minds and hearts focused on productive and sustainable lives for themselves and their children.
By the middle of 2010, nine months after the launch, ICT had graduated three classes of students (no class had ever begun with enough funding to finish; the money would have to be cobbled together along the way). Many graduates not only went on to become employed in restaurants and hotels, but would return to ICT to mentor new students. Phase One was complete, but there was much farther to go.
In August of 2010, the restructuring often essential to a growing organisation took place, and Spencer and Barry chose to go their separate ways. Although Spencer is no longer connected with the organisation, his efforts as ICT’s co-founder will always be one of the important forces that helped launch the school.
Phase Two began in January of 2011. Barry remained as Executive Director. Two new teachers were trained (Khululani Jobo, class of 2010, and Shepherd Mutendera, class of 2009). New premises were found, additional culinary and business advisors brought on board, a student text book was created, and three new classes were completed. Today, we look forward to the three scheduled classes for 2012.
The food service industry is the #1 employer worldwide. Therefore, the opportunities for focused and dedicated young people to find a career is never-ending.
So the work continues . . .