Nico Lombard, who has been the principal at the Boksburg campus of Capsicum Culinary Studio, South Africa’s leading culinary institute, for the past 10 years is celebrating an incredible decade of training some of the best chefs in the country.
How did you get involved in this industry?
“I started working in restaurants at the age of 16 and worked my way up from waiter to manager and later became a restaurant owner. I completed qualifications in both hospitality management and as a chef. After 10 years in the industry, I decided on a change of pace and wanted to move into academia, so I joined the Capsicum team as principal of the Boksburg branch in 2009.”
What changes have you seen in the past 10 years at Capsicum and in the industry?
“Over the last few years, one of the obvious major changes was when Capsicum joined ADvTECH, becoming more of a powerhouse in the hospitality training arena. I’ve also noticed a change in the calibre of students, as more people become aware of the opportunities in the field through social media and television. The breadth of career opportunities locally has also increased over the years which is very exciting. With Capsicum’s international partners, students also have more opportunities to gain work experience abroad.”
Why do you think so many alumni have been successful?
Not only do our students have the knowledge that they’ve gained at Capsicum but they also have an impressive work ethic and understand that you have to work hard to be successful.
What do you believe gives Capsicum an edge over its competitors?
Our passion and commitment to student life and the student experience. We also are committed to students who graduate with both practical and hands-on skills. We pride ourselves on the fact that most of our graduates find employment in the industry almost straight away.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to make a career in the hospitality industry?
Make sure you love the culinary industry. Work hard. Be willing to start at the bottom. Work the extra shift. Leave an establishment after a year or two to get more exposure. Network! Enter as many chefs’ competitions as you can. Read recipes and follow other chefs on social media and look at plating photos. Eat and taste everything. Play with your food! Immerse yourself in anything and everything regarding food.
Do your kids love food as much as you do?
“Both (aged 12 and 6) love spending time in the kitchen and might have inherited my foodie genes!”
What are the latest food trends?
Affordable fine dining, local produce and South African heritage cooking. Craft whiskey is also showing promise as a 2019 trend, which I’m very excited about!
How do you rate the South African hospitality industry?
We are competing very well, compared with the international industry. I think we are up there!
What three ingredients would we always find in your kitchen?
Fresh herbs, garlic and chilli is a must. Ginger is also always there too. These ingredients will always add depth and character to any dish.