Singita School of Cooking’s recipe for success -Winner of the 2015 Trialogue Strategic CSI Award

The Singita private lodge in the Kruger National Park (KNP) partnered with the Singita Community Development Trust to establish the Singita School of Cooking in 2007. Since then, this partnership has afforded a select group of aspiring chefs the opportunity to create a better life for themselves, their families and by extension, their communities.

  • Each year’s set of graduates from the Singita School of Cooking (SSC) has demonstrated that a well-conceptualised and managed CSI initiative can also be a strategically sound investment.
  • With each learner intake, the course enables a small group of nine students to gain a nationally recognised Professional Cookery Qualification (NQF Level 4).
  • The initiative has a high success rate, with all previously unemployed students finding employment after completing the programme.
  • Sourcing staff locally and training them to high standards makes Singita first choice for the top achievers in the class, ahead of other lodges in the KNP, giving them a competitive advantage.
  • Another possible, indirect outcome of the SSC project is maintaining environmental integrity.

This forms part of Singita’s ongoing commitment to providing meaningful development activities for locals, while simultaneously supporting the environment and servicing the needs of the business.

singitanumbers

When corporate and community needs coincide

From the outset, each year’s set of graduates from the Singita School of Cooking (SSC) has demonstrated that a well-conceptualised and managed CSI initiative can also be a strategically sound investment. In fact, this sustainable project ticks several boxes by developing scarce skills and creating work opportunities for unskilled, unemployed youth from the lodge’s neighbouring, economically depressed and underdeveloped Manyeleti areas.

SSC, on the far eastern reaches of one of Southern Africa’s premiere ecotourism locales, fulfils the dual function of kitchen and classroom. It also fulfils Singita’s desire to source qualified staff from nearby communities. It’s a win-win. As Singita reaps competitive advantages, local youth are being prepared for a career that can improve their prospects.

Learning and development

SSC was founded by one of Singita’s own chefs and is located within the staff village that serves the Singita Lebombo and Sweni Lodges. Previously an army base, the village now conveniently boasts a modern, fully equipped kitchen that was made available to the Trust to establish and run a chef training facility for the benefit of the local community. Places at this culinary institution are in high demand.

Before each of its 18-month learning cycles, the project is advertised in the community by word of mouth, posters and flyers, and there is a rigorous selection process for the hundreds of applicants. With each learner intake, the course enables a small group of nine students to gain a nationally recognised Professional Cookery Qualification (NQF Level 4). This full-time programme is defined by high quality learning interactions with focused, personalised instruction from a chef skills developer. It offers a comprehensive, multifaceted curriculum that combines theory components completed in both the classroom and online, with intensive practical training in the SSC kitchen. All areas of professional cooking are explored, and students learn by doing. One year is spent cooking for Singita staff in their village, and an additional six months in real-world, in-service training, preparing food for guests at Singita’s lodges. The trainees are given daily opportunities to learn from the expert chefs who produce Singita’s Relais & Châteaux-standard food. The programme includes life-skills tuition and focuses on improving spoken English. Work skills and ethics, time management and forward planning are also taught.

SSC students are assessed as they progress and must be found competent in all modules to graduate. Once qualified, their extensive practical experience gained within a professional work context, combined with an on-paper qualification, leaves them well equipped and qualified to start working in a professional kitchen as commis-level chefs. Graduates are assisted in applying for positions as chefs with Singita, other lodges within or close to KNP, and further afield. The initiative has a high success rate, with all previously unemployed students finding employment after completing the programme.

Mutually beneficial outcomes

The SSC epitomises Singita’s symbiotic approach to giving back, based on its modern conservation model that recognises the need for a balanced relationship between wildlife, tourism and local communities. It’s an example of strategic social investment that makes use of available resources.

While the SSC’s social impact is significant, the benefits it brings to Singita’s business are also significant. For example, the positive impression generated by the project’s contributions positions Singita KNP as a socially responsible organisation and encourages goodwill that inspires steadfast customer relationships, repeat visits and valuable word-of-mouth marketing.

Business benefits

  • Sourcing staff locally and training them to high standards makes Singita first choice for the top achievers in the class, ahead of other lodges in the KNP, giving them a competitive advantage.
  • The time it takes to recruit staff is reduced and the new recruits are integrated smoothly into operations.
  • The payroll is kept manageable and Singita is able to employ staff with high potential to progress through the ranks within its kitchens.
  • Singita can invest with more confidence in highly skilled, loyal staff, keeping staff turnover low.

Broader benefits

  • Another possible, indirect outcome of the SSC project is maintaining environmental integrity. As local communities experience the project’s positive impacts, the likelihood of impoverished households turning to illegal and environmentally destructive activities, such as, poaching and deforestation, remains low.
  • The project generates ample opportunity for partnership. Singita and its partners jointly fund the SSC, and the South African Government contributes through learnership support. Additionally, individual learner sponsorships are a rewarding way for guests to contribute.
  • On a wider scale, the project’s potential to impact the hospitality industry is noteworthy in that its success has been recognised to a point of replication. The SSC model has proved beneficial to multiple stakeholders and, as of 2015, the model is being replicated in Tanzania at the Singita Grumeti Reserves. 

What the judges said

“Singita stands out, not for its size and scope, or even for financial muscle: this is a smaller, contained but high impact project that illustrates very clear operational and strategic direction and certainly has an impact on its broader ecosystem, plus a catalytic, positive,multiplier effect on beneficiaries’ immediate families, their communities and country. “It is an extremely focused programme with strong leverage from the company purpose, and provides a direct line of sight between specific goals and measured outcomes. There is clear long-term commitment to and passionate belief in the project.”

2018-08-27T12:23:27+00:00 November 1st, 2015|Strategic CSI Awards|