Healthy Eating for a Healthy Lifestyle

Top SA chef gets entrepreneur bug
— Edward West / fin24

Jackie Cameron (31) is very enthusiastic about her plans to open a chef school in KwaZulu-Natal next year, after spending 10 years as head chef of the award-winning Midlands hotel and restaurant Hartford House.

She said that setting up a school had become a passion of her's after realising, that in spite of winning numerous awards, nothing could compare with the satisfaction she had felt after training many people at Hartford House.

"I have known for a long time that this is what I wanted to do," she said.

Her plans, including her meteoric career so far as a chef, show how hard work and dedication to one's work can propel one into becoming an entrepreneur.

"At last I am in a position to realise my dream of launching Jackie Cameron's School of Food and Wine, scheduled to open in January 2015," she said.

Passion for KZN

Cameron's heart is in KwaZulu-Natal where, since 2002, she has filled the position of head chef at Hartford House, a five-star boutique hotel in rural Mooi River.

The new school will be based at her family home in Hilton and the anticipated 15 students will live either on the premises, or possibly have accommodation nearby.

A focus of the curriculum will be "healthy eating for a healthy lifestyle," and she also wants to broaden the training to include a lifestyle course.

This will focus on other aspects of being a chef, which in today's world, means more than just working in the kitchen, and could involve aspects such as food photography and food writing.

Hands On

She aims to be fully "hands-on" with the training, although, depending on the progress of the school, she may get additional lecturers.

The school will offer an 18-month intensive internationally-recognised course. "Hands-on" is Cameron's philosophy and the students will be working alongside her, daily.

The school will provide learners with the opportunity to experience all things foodie in a safe and secure environment. Cameron believes there is no need to have only worked in a top restaurant, locally or internationally, to succeed.

"There is so much to food and I want to share all that I have been fortunate to have learnt, and experienced, with the students," she said, adding that her aim was to impart this knowledge, and to equip the students with the skills to "go it alone".

Time to prepare

She left Hartford at the end of last month, and will spend the next few months preparing for the school, doing things like creating a detailed syllabus and programme.

She has a list of achievements that most aspiring chefs would dream of.

She graduated from the Christina Martin School of Food and Wine in 2001 and cut her teeth at Mount Grace Country House and Spa.

Under her guidance the Hartford House restaurant achieved national Top 10 status four times and made number five restaurant in the country in 2013.

The restaurant is mentioned regularly in magazines and has achieved many other accolades including Top 10 Eat Out, American Express Platinum Fine Dining Programme and People's Choice awards.

Her career has taken her to Germany, France, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Australia, England, Dubai, Shanghai, Spain, Copenhagen, Denmark and America.

Her book, Jackie Cameron Cooks At Home, published by Penguin, hit the shelves in May 2013 and in July achieved the status of second highest cookbook sold in the country as voted by Exclusive Books.

In her personal capacity Cameron has the distinction of being one of Victor Strugo's "three favourite woman chefs". She was voted by South African Tourism as one of the Top 10 Young South African Chefs, has appeared on TV programmes such as MasterChef SA, Top Billing, and with Justin Bonello in The Ultimate Braai Master.

Cameron has been part of the Real Food Movement, is a Chaine des Rotisseure member, and is on the KwaZulu-Natal committee for the South Africa Chefs' Association.

Cameron leaves no stone unturned. She took her creative flair into the world of fashion when she introduced her Jackie Cameron Chef's Range as an alternative to conventional "kitchen wear".

Top SA chef gets entrepreneur bug