Academy owner Brett Nussey talks to SABBEX
SABBEX: You’ve been in the culinary game for many years. How did you first get into it?
BN: I started the Harbour House restaurant in 1998 and handed over two years later to the present owner. I ended up going back into marketing but always had the desire to work in the culinary field. A few friends asked me to teach them how to make sushi (when it was just starting out in Cape Town) and the interest to get into culinary training was sparked. I then continued to teach evenings after work until 2010, at which point I set up a school in Observatory. I preferred the hours and the participation rather than slaving over a hot stove without getting involved with the patrons. In 2015 I left marketing and pursued a full-time career teaching.
SABBEX: Your business has built up quite a following with a broad clientele. Why the move into maritime? Did you identify a gap in the market?
BN: We have been training students into the yachting industry for the past seven years, and are one of the only schools worldwide that provides comprehensive training for chefs focussing specifically to work on yachts. There is a large demand for chefs in the maritime industry and our programme was designed specifically for chefs starting out in the yachting industry or who have been working at land-based positions.
SABBEX: Were you already working with Stuart Loxton (Ocean Star Academy) or did you identify him as a suitable partner based on his experience with sailing?
BN: As we are the only company offering chef training for yacht personnel we work with all the players in the yacht training industry so do not work exclusively with Ocean Star– we operate completely independently and merely share a building. We needed larger space and the idea of sharing a building with another company in the maritime space made sense.
SABBEX: At what point did you contact V&A and what was their initial reaction? Seems to me they have been waiting for partners like yourself?
BN: I contacted Stuart at the V&A two years ago and suggested we take the building next to him at the time. Little did we know that the building was condemned. From then on we kept in contact and a year ago we made the call to start looking, as his lease was also expiring. The V&A have been working on the Oceans Economy programme for the past 18 months and the initiative to set up a training centre seemed to fit exactly within their programme. The idea was then pushed ahead through Andre Blaine who has had a large stake in setting up the Oceans Economy programme.
SABBEX: The location? How did this come about?
BN: We looked at a few options and none fitted what we wanted. The building we are currently occupying was an old foundry and a bit of a wreck that had been standing empty for almost two years prior to us seeing the potential in it. Our negotiations with the Waterfront then started off this base.
SABBEX: How does superyacht training differ from the training you already offer to aspiring chefs?
BN: We have different training programmes that are designed for different skills sets. The Superyacht Culinary programme covers theory and practical applications specifically focussed on preparing students to work on yachts, so the training does differ from our standard courses that are purely culinary short courses for land-based applications.
SABBEX: There are superyachts and there are SUPERyachts: does this present challenges for your training, such as preparing people to deal with the laid-back AND the super-larnie?
BN: We cover both. Our theory and practical training includes any instance whether you find yourself on a 40ft monohull or a 60m Superyacht, so people can adapt themselves to any situation.
SABBEX: Do you intend expanding the training beyond culinary / stewardess / deckhand courses?
BN: Yes we are. Our focus going forward is to include the MCA ship’s cook certification which is now becoming a pre-requisite to work on yachts in the Med. There are plans in place to further expand into various sectors of the Superyachting industry in line with the Oceans Economy programme.
SABBEX: I understand you already accommodate many foreigners. Where is the market?
BN: The market is worldwide. We receive students from all over the world and also advertise internationally. South Africa offers a myriad of yachting and training opportunities and is probably the most affordable place to train worldwide. The seas here are relatively challenging, providing anyone entering the yachting world the best training conditions. We are internationally recognised through various International training centres so are listed worldwide through their websites.
SABBEX: Just how picky can superyacht owners be? Are we talking five star service?
BN: We are talking 7-star service. Some yacht owners expect fine dining all the time while others are more casual. We train all our students up to top level, so they can gear down if need be.
SABBEX: Superyacht provisioning is a big potential growth area. Are you interested in this too?
BN: We are setting this up.
SABBEX: The V&A is trying to kickstart a superyacht hub in Cape Town, hoping to attract a bigger share of the market. Do you see this happening? What does Cape Town have to offer in this regard?
BN: Although Cape Town is a long distance and may be out of the way for many yachts, the city is regarded as one of the prime worldwide destinations for culinary, design and tourism. Why should yachting not be one of the major attractions? We have the capabilities and people to provide top service to superyachts coming to SA and offer top class boatbuilding and servicing facilities. Ideally, this should attract a large sector of the market.
SABBEX: What are the biggest obstacles to achieving superyacht success? Does this require public-private partnership?
BN: Yes – the private public partnership is crucial. Our interactions with services offered by Transnet, harbour facilities, customs, government institutions such as SAMSA and the fishing industry are paramount to the success of any projects going forward.
SABBEX: How big are your classes and how long are the courses?
BN: We take up to 12 students at a time. Any more would jeopardise the intensity of the training. Our courses are either 10 days or 8 days. The 10-day course offers students 2 full days of pure culinary training prior to embarking on the more intense Superyacht training course.
SABBEX: Contact details for more information?
+27 21 501 0695