Being wheelchair bound hasn’t stopped Luke’s dreams from coming true

Luke Lotter was only seven years old when he was involved in an horrific car accident and suffered a contusion of the spinal cord that left him paralysed and wheelchair bound. It was not only his spine that was shattered, but also his dreams of one day becoming a chef.

Now, 13 years later and with a determined can-do attitude, the 20-year-old Umhlanga resident is well on his way to achieving his ambition having enrolled in February this year for a one-year Professional Chef Course at Capsicum Culinary Studio’s Durban campus.

Lotter had previously found it difficult to find an entry point into his culinary journey having been told it would be difficult to accommodate him from a physical perspective and that he was potentially a health and safety risk.”

Lotter approached Capsicum Culinary Studio and was not only accepted with open arms but, he says, “they made adjustments to working stations for me, moved equipment and furniture around to accommodate my wheelchair and told me that there was an open door policy for me to discuss any issues I may have in the kitchen or on the campus as a whole.”

Lotter is quick to point out that the open-door policy is for all Capsicum students and not just him.

What’s the first five months been like?

“It’s been a really amazing experience, especially with the class I’m in and the awesome lecturer we have. Everyone on campus has made me feel part of the family.”

Adds Capsicum’s Durban campus head, Ann Nagan: “It has been such a privilege having Luke on campus. His passion for the industry and his determination to succeed was very clear from our first meeting. 

“It was Luke’s quiet strength and determination that made me do everything in my power to have him be a part of Capsicum and we adapted our kitchens to enable his functionality. I believe Luke is going to do amazing things in the culinary industry and he has shown other people with disabilities, who may think that a career in the culinary world is unattainable, that if you have the passion and drive and the support of dedicated professionals within the industry, anything is possible.”

Lotter says his love for cooking stems from the fact that he has always been around people involved in the culinary industry from those owning restaurants to others in the catering business and some running cooking schools for young children.

“I’ve also been inspired by many of the cooking shows I’ve watched over the years, especially those like Hell’s Kitchen and Hotel Hell and I’m a massive fan of Gordon Ramsay.

“The passion has probably been there since I was young but the actual drive to be a chef has come about in the last five or six years.”

What are his plans after graduation?

“I’m not 100% sure. I may go on to study Food and Beverage Management, but one thing’s certain – I’ll definitely be trying to make changes in the hospitality industry for the physically challenged community.

Where does he see himself in five years’ time?

“Working in a reputable restaurant and involved with the Quadpara Association of South Africa (QASA) to bring about changes in the industry,” he says.

One of Lotter’s favourite things to make and eat is a dish of his Special Sticky Chicken Wings. Here’s the recipe:


500g chicken wings

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon black pepper

For the BBQ Sauce

1½ cups BBQ sauce (use your favourite brand)

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup honey

2 tablespoons tomato sauce

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce


Preheat oven to 180°C. Season the chicken wings with salt, garlic powder and pepper. Lightly spray a baking tray with cooking spray. Place the chicken wings in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 30 min. Whikle the wings cook, add the barbecue sauce, brown sugar, honey, tomato sauce, mustard and Worcestershire sauce to a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid sticking. Simmer the sauce until the sugar melts and the ingredients are incorporated. (Give the sauce all of your attention while it’s simmering! Do not leave the pan unattended.) Lower and keep the sauce warm until ready to use, stirring occasionally. Add about ¾ of the sauce to a bowl and reserve the rest for serving. Remove the wings from the oven and turn each one over. Using a pastry brush, coat them with a generous amount of the barbecue sauce and bake for another 5 minutes. Repeat process then remove from oven, arrange on a platter and serve them with the remaining barbecue sauce on the side.

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