Inspiring future generations of chefs ~ Chef Sharon Pye, Capsicum Culinary Studio

Sitting in the Johannesburg Deeds Office’s dusty archive room, waiting for an old tome so I
could complete due diligence on a Hyde Park property, I picked up old cooking magazine and
read about the life of Julia Child, an American chef, television host and cookbook author who
started her culinary career late in life.

I thought back to my breakfast of a hard, blue, rubbery egg which I had boiled until no water
remained in the pot as I was unsure of the time needed to boil an egg. Perhaps it was not
too late to learn the basics of cooking, but a few simple demonstrations or online mini courses
would not suffice. I wanted to learn the best from the best.

Placing myself on the attorneys non-practising roll, I signed up for a full-time three-year
course at Capsicum Culinary Studio, Rosebank in Johannesburg. My decision caused much
confusion and entrenched many beliefs that a mid-life crisis was a real thing!

I moved from the halls of justice to the culinary world of food art and science. Mastering knife
skills, plating and food pairing was the start of a journey embarked on before me by
culinary giants like Stephen Bellingham and Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, to name just
a few! I loved every lecture, practical assessment and industry placement. No matter how
gruelling or how labour intensive the work was, I rose to the occasion and conquered each

I also discovered that I could mentor and teach my fellow students with some tricky
theoretical modules. The fact that all my peers were the same age as my children was not
lost on me. I had an insight into their world and could empathise with their concerns and
problems. Finishing as the top student, I decided I was not ready to return to my legal career
and did not want to leave the Capsicum family. I applied for a job as an independent
contractor to Capsicum Culinary Studio to teach assistant chefs in Soweto at one of their
outreach projects.

I now have a permanent position as a lecturer at the main campus in Rosebank and get paid
for my two new loves – cooking and teaching! I am entrusted with the privilege of not only
teaching, but inspiring future generations of chefs.

The importance of this task is not lost on me, especially given the recent marking of World
Youth Skills Day on July 15, which celebrated the strategic importance of equipping young
People with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship. Future chefs have
world-wide opportunities which are dynamic, fast paced and constantly evolving. My task is
to provide them with a solid foundation so that they can not only cope with their future
challenges but flourish and proudly bear the name of Capsicum alumni.

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