As the graduates filed into the room they were met with a standing ovation from their parents, friends, mentors and loved ones. The crowd remained standing until the graduates were seated, a testament to the pride felt in the room. Rebecca Hurst’s opening remarks were perfunctory and heartfelt, during which she thanked all those who have contributed to the success of the graduates. She reminded the graduates that the closing of this chapter of their lives was an opportunity to remember to always seek to exemplify their ‘X’ factor.

The guest speaker, Kathleen Quillinan, spoke about three important life lessons for the young chefs, through three metaphors, pesto, soup, and vegetables.

Pesto, she explained, represented the need to always push oneself and be open to new experiences, as she had been when she made the transition from musical artist to the owner of the national pesto manufacturing and distribution company, Pesto Princess.

Soup represented the need to always look out for those less fortunate, and share in one’s success. She explained her journey towards this, in that the Pesto Princess gives a share of all soup manufactured to local soup kitchens. She explained that this would not always have been possible for the company; they wouldn’t have stayed afloat if they had taken this approach with their pesto. She reminded the graduates that it’s okay to look out for yourself when you’re starting out, but is equally as important to remember to give back when you can, and to always be open to the plight of others.

Vegetables signified a far less metaphorical lesson. She urged the students to ‘live life on the veg’. To make changes in their culinary careers to introduce more plant-based dishes into their menus, celebrating the lesser celebrated; fall in love with vegetables, she advised.

She concluded by reminding the Hurst Graduates that the world holds a special place for all of them and that the [Pesto] Palace is always open to them.

The student speakers, Anna-Mart Willemse and Marcelle Strydom (both of which were acknowledged later for academic excellence in their degrees) spoke with passion and fondness about their time at the Hurst Campus, recognising the forces that got them to where they were; their families, mentors, internship colleagues and lecturers, notably mentioning Phia Murell and Rebecca Hurst as indomitable forces of guidance, help and wisdom, who had irrevocably changed the lives of the graduates. Both (Hurst and Murell) were met with whooping cheers from the students as they stood to be acknowledged, a testament to the large influence they have had on the students’ lives.

The capping ceremony was a wonderful culmination of the student’s time at Hurst, as they came forward to receive their degrees and were ‘capped’ with a giant wooden spoon! Surely there could be no more fitting a manner to cap a cheffing student. Three students were noted for graduating with an above 80% aggregate- a remarkable achievement. These were Rae McCabe, Marcelle Strydom and Anna-Mart Willemse.

Additional awards were granted, to multiple students for excellence, determination, progress and promise. These were the awards granted:

  • The Hurst Campus Award For Determination And Personal Progress: JP William
  • Hurst Campus Award For Determination, Progress And A Winning Smile: Yoliswa Bedesho
  • Hurst Campus Award For Front Of House Service Excellence: Sabrina Do Rego
  • Hurst Campus Award For Professionalism & The Most Teachable Spirit: Anna-Mart Willemse
  • Hurst Campus Award For Most Promising Cheffing Student 2019: Tashlynn Britton
  • Phia Murrell Award For The Product Development Project: Chrizaan Myburgh
  • Hill & Dale Award For Excellence In Wine: Tanner Leigh
  • Cuisines Of The World Project 2019: Japan (Busisiwe Sibindi and Kyle Evertts)

The awards for the Group Restaurant Concept and Design Project were also handed out. The students embarked upon the project 5 months ago. By applying both culinary and theoretical skills learned in the first 2 years of their course they had to research, plan, and carry out an event that incorporated all aspects of food and beverage management operations. These were held during a POP-UP restaurant week at the Hurst Campus.

The project also included a complete Mini Financial Business Plan, a Feasibility Study, a Marketing and Sales Strategy, Restaurant Menu and Wine List, all Standard Operating Procedures as well as a floor plan and mood board design of their restaurant concept. This gave them exposure to the planning and development of their dream restaurant from conception to the grand opening.

These were the awards handed out:

  • Best welcome on arrival and most hospitable hosts – 2 Jill’s and a Jack
  • Best entertainment –  Vibe Courtesy of the Darryn Govender Gig
  • Best attention to detail, decor and table setting – Team Eden
  • The Team that lit up their evening and beat Eskom at their 10.00pm power failure – 2 Jill’s and a Jack
  • Most delicious pre-dinner snack –  The Vibe’s Salmon Ceviche Pastry
  • The Best Entree – The sublime smoked pork terrine, parsley apples and baby beets –  from Team Eden
  • Most tasty main – The Crispy Eisbein with Mustard Pomme Puree and Sauerkraut –  from 2 Jill’s and a Jack
  • The best dessert: The blueberry and white chocolate cheesecake served up by the Triple T’s
  • Most memorable wine pairing: The Salted Chocolate Caramel Torte, Banana Mousse and Double Espresso Ice
  • Cream paired with Rickety Ridge 2018 Noble late harvest –  from Team Eden
  • Most beautiful Petit Fours  – the mixed berry macaroons, lemon tartlets and fudge from kitchen of the Triple T’s
  • The biggest WOW factor – Team Eden’s Gin Palate Cleanser with a Power Puff of Melting Candy Floss
  • Most accommodating hosts – Fabio, Tharien from 2 Jill’s and a Jack ably backed up by Brene in the kitchen
  • Best take home gift that was packaged by – Eden
  • Best Recovery – the Sommelier at the TTT’s
  • The Super 6 Students  – best spirit of cooperation and table service on one another’s evenings- 2 Jill’s and a Jack and Eden

But in the end and when all the points were counted for both the written submissions and the POP UP Event there could only be one winning team. This team also hosted the best night out. The winners of the Group Restaurant Concept and Design Project 2019 were Team Eden.

The final two awards were for all-round academic excellence and highest overall aggregate, and these were awarded to Sunique Wasserman for Year 2 and Anna-Mart Willemse for Year 3.

The ceremony was a wonderful occasion and a true reason to celebrate. We wish the students all the best as they journey out into the world and call to mind Rebecca Hurst’s final words to the students at the end of the ceremony:

Rebecca closed the ceremony by reminding the students that they should not seek to be perfect as they move into the world, but rather to excel at what they do.

“As you exit this campus you will no longer be exhausted by our examinations. Instead, it’s time to become an expert as you expedite those orders and exchange ideas. Be exemplary by respecting the expense that has been invested in you. Go and excel. Go and exceed expectations. Go be yourself, be excited. Go be extraordinary

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