While most of his peer group daydreamed about becoming football stars, Mitchell’s Plain-born chef Calvin Poole used to watch TV chefs like Martin Yan and Jamie Oliver and dream of becoming a star in the kitchen.
He learned the basics of cooking from his mother, as one does, and after completing his schooling, was among the fortunate few to know exactly what he wanted to do next.
Calvin embarked on his tertiary education and career at False Bay TVET College’s Muizenberg Campus in 2011, studying Professional Cookery and later a National N Diploma in Hospitality and Catering Services.
In 2014, Calvin was placed at the Park Inn at Radisson Hotel on the Foreshore in Cape Town, through the False Bay TVET College Work Integrated Learning Department. Within 18 months, he had worked his way up the ranks from Commis Chef to Chef de Partie to Junior Sous Chef. He accepted a position at a food processing company in 2017 to grow his skills set. In March 2020, he was tempted back to the Park Inn to take up the role of Executive Chef.
Unlike his childhood impression of virtuoso TV chefs single-handedly producing culinary masterpieces, Calvin says producing an unforgettable and tantalising food experience at the hotel every single day requires a team effort. A cool head under pressure helps, too.
Calvin finds the solid theory application he acquired at False Bay TVET College constantly proves its worth in his current role, where he is responsible for staff, stock and inventory control, health & safety and kitchen hygiene, menu planning, brand standards and guest satisfaction.
“I get to experience and experiment with new things every day. I enjoy having the creative licence to explore and try new dishes and cuisine offerings,” he says.
Great chefs are always asked what their favourite dish is but for Calvin, it’s not so much a single dish than a method.
Calvin says, “I love cooking one-tray bakes. It saves time, you can add a variety of ingredients to one oven tray. The fusion of different ingredients relates in a flavour explosion, creating dynamic savoury possibilities.”
What advice does the rising young star have for aspiring chefs at the College?
“I would advise anyone thinking of pursuing a career in hospitality to be prepared to sacrifice and commit if you want to run a high-end kitchen. You have to constantly push yourself and your team to be more creative and unique than other chefs in the industry. You want to continually be at the top of your game and abreast of the latest food trends,” says Calvin.