There are very few learning institutions around the world that offer quality training for Chefs. As our EDITORIAL TEAM discovered, Air Travel and Related Studies Centre has built an outstanding reputation as one of the leading learning institutions in Africa to produce highly trained and professional chefs for hospitality institutions around the world.
When the Board of Directors of the Air Travel and Related Studies Centre decided some years ago to launch a course on Food Production, it didn’t immediately emerge that this would be an intensive course that would need facilities and highly trained lecturers to produce the right calibre of graduates.
The course was immediately institutionalized, and over the years, it was refined to cater to the bludgeoning hospitality sector that is often in need of well-trained Chefs. Many years down the line, Air Travel and Related Studies sits side by side with some of the leading institutions that offer this course around the globe.
“One of the main challenges for us has been the availability of facilities for practical training,” says Mr Charles Gakuu, who is the Founder and Director of the Centre. “In order to successfully train a chef, an institution must-have modern kitchen equipment, food supplies and a patient lecturer who can take students through practical sessions.”
Apparently, this has been the Achilles Heel for most institutions of this nature because the Kitchen equipment isn’t cheap to come by, and neither is the food supplies. It means the centre can only accommodate about 15 students at any one given academic year.
“But that is what has made us to successfully produce graduates that are professionally equipped to become chefs in any leading hospitality institution in the world,” says Mr Gakuu. “We know our limits, and work within them to ensure we do not give the market half-baked graduates.”
In an industry that has stiff competition, Mr Gakuu says chefs are on high demand, but unfortunately, there aren’t many institutions that are offering a course in Food Production, particularly targeting chefs. This has made the market experience a shortage of chefs, and it is sometimes quite a daunting task to feed the market when the college can only take so many students. In the future, he hopes the Centre will find sponsors who will be able to help create room for more equipment and food supplies, and hence the subsequent increase in student intake for this course.
“Cooking is an art, and one must have the passion and drive to engage in it. It is not a profession for the faint-hearted,” Mr Gakuu says. “Students who enrol for this course must be sure they really want to become chefs. It is demanding and full of pressure. A chef may need to stand the whole day in the kitchen, and issue instructions according to the schedule of food to be prepared, to a host of other assisting chefs who are specialist in various cooking disciplines. It is for this reason that we encourage only those who have a passion for this vocation to throw in their hats in the ring.”
The Centre has benefited greatly from partnerships with various world-class hospitality institutions, among them hotels, resorts and lodges in Dubai, France and Western Europe at large. The institution sends students undertaking this course to these leading hospitality facilities for further training and attachment and eventually ends up getting them jobs where possible.
“This partnership has largely given us the impetus needed to enable our students to obtain the exposure they require to succeed in this profession,” Mr Gakuu says. “Some of the institutions that have been very supportive in Kenya include The Sarova Group of Hotels, Sankara Hotel, among others. Our joy is seeing most of our students undertaking this course being absorb by such leading brands in the country alongside others in the Middle East and Europe.”
Air Travel and Related Studies Centre has set its standards high enough to compete with international training institutions. The aspiration is to ensure the institution operates at par with peers on the international scene. That is why you will find that most leading chefs in the institutions of hospitality in this region have come from this learning Centre. The sky as it seems is the limit for Mr Gakuu and his team, and he hopes there will be more chefs coming through the ranks in coming years from the humble aboard that is the Air Travel and Related Studies Centre.