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Meet Mark Coombe – Capsicum’s Pretoria campus headwho is positive about the culinary industry.


Mark Coombe has headed up the Pretoria campus of Capsicum Culinary Studio – South Africa’s leading culinary institute – for the past nine years and admits the past 24 months have been extremely challenging.


“The Covid pandemic meant that many chefs lost their jobs but there was an upside,” he says, “as a lot of them went on their own and have made a success of their new businesses.”


Born in England, Coombe has manyyears’ experience in the catering industry – from working in a bakery at the age of 15 and running chalets in the French Alps, to becoming the executive chef of two successful UK restaurants.


Although Coombe now spends his time passing his knowledge on to a new generation of chefs, he’s still a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen and is the current South Africa reigning pizza making champion, having won last year’s Global Pizza Challenge SA, beating 12 other finalists for the top prize.


Says Coombe: “I am feeling incredibly positive about the industry. I am hoping that the worst of Covid is behind us, and the culinary and hospitality industry can now get back onto its feet to a position where it was in 2019. There are a lot of chefs that have stuck it out and hopefully the small businesses will also make a comeback this year.”


Coombe explains why he believes it is crucial to study for a skills-based qualification such as the culinary arts: “You must obviously know how to prepare and cook the food, but the knowledge behind the preparation and cooking is just as important. The internships are also vital and Capsicum has great relationships with several industry partners.”


He’s proud of many of the Capsicum alumni who have made their mark in the industry.


“Just look at one of my students Simphiwe Zondi who is now the owner of Sandton’s Chef Zondi & Co and is a chef and baker who makes special occasion cakes for a host of South African celebrities including Thembi Nyandeni, Basetsana Kumalo and Bonang Mathebe. His work is remarkable!”


What is Coombes advice for those wanting to make a career in the hospitality industry?


“I tell my students being in the hospitality industry is hard work. It is not glamorous but the rewards can be impressive. Things are always changing in the culinary world. That’s part of what makes the industry so exciting. My top tip would be to try and broaden your horizons, by travelling and experiencing a variety of catering cultures to increase valuable knowledge.”


Orientation week starts on February 21 at all six Capsicum campuses.


For more information on the various courses offered go to https://www.capsicumcooking.com/open-days or contact your local Capsicum campus.

  • Boksburg: Unit 6, Bartlett Lake Office Park, Cnr Leith and Trichards Roads, Boksburg. Tel: 011 918 2690.

  • Cape Town: 6th Floor, Rex Trueform Office Park, 263 Victoria Rd, Salt River. Tel: 021 442 0600.

  • Durban: 300 Granada Square, 16 Chartwell Dr, Umhlanga Rocks. Tel: 031 561 1959.

  • Johannesburg: 3 Keyes Ave, Rosebank. Tel: 011 234 1896.

  • Nelson Mandela Bay: 1 Newmarket Rd, Greenacres, Gqeberha. Tel: 041 365 2606.

  • Pretoria: Menlyn Square, Ground Floor, South Building, 134 Aramist Ave, Waterkloof Glen. Tel: 012 993 0071. Or WhatsApp: 0799287972/0723830159/0723062483