The Making Of A Chef
Food & Home Entertaining|January 2017

This Is Where Masters of Cuisine Are Sculpted – the Institute of Culinary Arts (Ica). The Bar Is Set High at This Revered Establishment Where Students Clad in White Learn the Art With a Dollop of Excellence and a Pinch of Pride.

Malu Lambert

Our chefs are cut from a different cloth. They go the extra mile because cheffing is not a career. It is a way of life. It encompasses your whole being,” says Letitia Prinsloo, founder and principal. The Institute of Culinary Arts (ICA) is positioned high up in the Banhoek Valley, deep in Stellenbosch’s wine country.

The view is astonishing: all distant mountains and rolling vineyards. We’re sitting under a gazebo wreathed in fragrant summer blooms, along with Selwyn October, senior chef lecturer, and Merizle Mitrovich, head of faculty. They’re the first to admit they’re strict. “Discipline is a way of life,” adds Letitia. “You must walk with passion and pride.”

The ICA has recently been recognised with an international award when it was announced as a City & Guilds’ 2016 International Centre of Excellence. What makes this victory even sweeter is that the ICA competed against cookery schools that have intakes of thousands of students each year, whereas the ICA accepts only 36 new students per year (in order to uphold their training ethos of lecturer-to-student average ratio of 1:6). This makes it one of the most intensive chef schools in the world – and also only one of three chef schools worldwide that met the utmost criteria of excellence.

Letitia was in her herb garden in her Tuscany home when she heard about the award. As luck would have it, she already had a booking at Osteria Francescana (Modena). So, along with her husband, Kobus Prinsloo (who is ICA’s financial director), they joined Merizle and her husband at the world’s number one restaurant for a celebratory dinner. Worldwide culinary jaunts are not out of the norm. “We always work with the best ingredients possible,” says Letitia. “I go truffle hunting once a year in Italy to bring them back for the students.”

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