Funding from the Mayoral Youth Skills Development Programme of Stellenbosch Municipality has helped beneficiaries like Cherelene Newman carve out a new future at the popular Equus Dine restaurant at Cavalli Estate.
“I always assumed I would end up like my father. He struggled with alcoholism for many years,” says Cherelene Newman (20), a commis chef at Cavalli Estate, one of the Western Cape’s “premier dining destinations”.
It’s hard to believe that this is the future Cherelene, a student who previously benefitted from the Mayoral Youth Skills Development Programme, envisioned for herself when you listen to the young woman talk about the skill set she has acquired over the last seven months while working alongside many seasoned chefs.
Before Cherelene embarked on Bergzicht’s City and Guilds’ Professional Cooking and Food and Beverage Service programme, which is offered in conjunction with The Private Hotel School (PHS) in Vlottenburg, she was unemployed.
Eight years ago, when her father passed away and her mother remarried, Cherelene and her sister, Marelize, were split up and placed with an uncle and a family friend in Sir Lowry’s Pass. Before then her grandmother, also from the same area, had cared for her.
At 13, she moved to Idas Valley to live with her mom and attend Lückhoff High School.
She dreamt of studying law, then becoming a fireman or perhaps joining the army, but in Grade 11, her “dreams completely disappeared”.
It was the year that she discovered that her mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer and had kept it a secret.
“I believed my mother was going to die. That’s what happens to most people with cancer,” says Cherelene.
After completing matric and staying home for three months, a friend, Steflene Pekeur, encouraged her to register for one of Bergzicht’s programmes. Together they completed Life Skills, Home Management, and the professional cooking programmes.
When she finished her training at the PHS campus, Cherelene was placed at Cavalli for a three-week work integrated learnership. She has not left since.
“I have learned so much here at Cavalli from our previous sous chef and I am looking forward to learning many new things from our current chef too. My dream is actually to become a head chef myself and who knows, maybe one day I’ll even own my own restaurant.”