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Cooktastic – a model that works!

After meeting while they were volunteering and working, respectively, at the Salesians Institute, Brigitte Sachs-Schaffer, Co-Founder & Pro Bono Director and Mbuyi Jongqo, Co-Founder, Director, and Programme Manager together founded Cooktastic, an NGO designed to give talented & willing young people from disadvantaged families a helping hand to obtain entry level employment in the hospitality industry.

Cooktastic solicits applications from unemployed youth in the townships aged 18 to 26 who must have passed at least Grade 10 and be proficient at reading and writing. Approximately 300 apply for every session, from which they select around 20-22. The group undergo a 4-week work readiness programme, followed by a 9-week culinary training. This is followed by a two month in-service training at hospitality industry partners, which often leads to permanent employment.

Cooktastic started operating from its well fitted out premises with an industrial kitchen in Salt River in March 2020. This far there have been 7 cohorts who have successfully completed the programme, resulting in 161 trained students, and the 8th cohort is currently in session. The dropout rate has been 0-2 per cohort. Approximately 65% of the applicants are female. The programme has been accredited by QCTO / CATHSSETA who contribute R300 per student. The students are asked to pay a ‘’commitment ‘ fee of R3,500 each, which is approximately 10% of the actual program cost.

Due to demand from the industry partners, barista and basic bakery training have been added to the curriculum. When applicable, the in-service training can also be extended by 1 to 2 months. Experiential learning has also been added at wine farms, retail deli departments, industrial kitchens, and catering companies

On completion of the programme, the job placement rate overall has been around 87 % and the feedback from employers is mainly positive with Cooktastic seen as a preferred training institute.

Cooktastic has signed on 56 ‘top rated’ partners from the hospitality industry such as the Kove Collection (The Nine´s, Bungalow, Bobo´s) The Bay Hotel, the Hyde Hotel, and The Westin/Marriott.

Some Cooktastic graduates ‘special achievements’ include 6 who cooked in Doha during the FIFA World Cup, 5 participated in a cooking show competition, 1 (Ayabonga) performed in a TV cooking exposure and 1 (Nosiphiwo), who was the 1st Cooktastic/Rotary Exchange Student (Rotary NGSE), worked for 3 months in a bakery in Austria

Cooktastic has shown that the model works. If they can obtain additional funding they would like to extend from 3 to 4 cohorts per year, extend to other places, e.g. Johannesburg, offer a stand-alone full barista training due to high demand for baristas and offer additional holistic hospitality solutions such as ´front-of-house´ staff and waitrons.

With the support of a R1.6 million global grant, Cooktastic have recently created a Bakery Bistro catering business, “run” by Cooktastic graduates. The strategy is to produce artisanal bread, croissants and a few other fine pastries and deliver them to hospitality partners. There will be 6-months of intensive training for 4 selected graduates and a pilot delivery to Marriott Hotel. This is scheduled to start 9/23. They are also offering a takeaway service, with ordering using an app. This is a wonderful story that can be used for future fundraising, and for the industry partners to tell their customers, showing a sustainable impact.

Cooktastic provides an affordable way for young, unemployed youth from disadvantaged families who are willing to work hard a path to entry level employment in the hospitality industry.

The sponsors & supporters thus far for this Global Grant comprise seven Austrian and one German Rotary clubs, two Austrian, one South African, and two US Rotary Districts, the Mariamarina Foundation and the Rolf-Stephan Nussbaum Foundation.

You can watch their video (, and visit their website ( (Thanks Janet for transcribing this talk.)

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