Christmas has come early for 20-year-old Daniël de Bruin from Worcester in the Western Cape.
In December he will be heading to Nice on the French Riviera to take up a two-month internship at Michelin-star Restaurant JAN under the tutelage of South African culinary superstar, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen.
Van der Westhuizen’s journey to becoming one of the first South African chefs to be awarded a Michelin star has captured the imagination of foodies around the world. To be taken up in the Michelin firmament is arguably the culinary world’s highest honour, but to venture to France and receive the accolade in Michelin territory is a rare feat.
De Bruin and fellow IIE School of Hospitality & Service Management (HSM) student Marc Trollip were chosen for a paid internship at the restaurant with all their flights and accommodation covered.
De Bruin – who will be working front-of-house – is currently in his second year studying a degree in hospitality and service management.
He explains why he decided to study hospitality: “I originally thought of it as a career while on holiday, when a server remembered to set my place setting left-handed as I am a leftie. I was so impressed and have never forgotten it. I have pride in serving people and providing them with the best possible experience. Seeing a smile on someone’s face and the way they are enjoying themselves brings me so much pleasure. I believe the opportunities in the hospitality industry are endless and there’s plenty of room for growth in South Africa and on the global stage.”
De Bruin is counting down the days until he embarks on this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I want to improve on my skills in the food and beverage department. Front-of-house has different positions. For the most part, I believe I will be doing silver service waitering and hosting. Other front-of-house positions include barista, sommelier (wine waiter) and maître d’hôtel (meaning master of the house).
“Learning from Jan and working at his restaurant will be the best way for me to learn how to build a brand of my own. French cuisine has always been something I want to try and now not only do I get to learn more about it while working at JAN, but I’ll also get to learn more about French culture.”
“I have only ever been to Australia so I cannot wait to visit Europe. My parents are as excited as I am – they are both in the hospitality industry and know just what a life-changing opportunity this could be.”
De Bruin chose to study at The IIE SH&SM because he feels it promises international opportunities.
“It is because of them that I am able be do the JAN internship,” he says, “and after finishing my studies, I want to work on a Disney cruise ship and travel the world before returning to South Africa to work in the industry.
What makes for good service in his opinion?
“A person with a passion for what they do. Someone who loves the service industry will always try to please people. A person that focuses on the finer details and that pays attention to the body language and the facial expressions of people will automatically provide an overall better service.
“The hospitality industry is so diverse. You can do anything within it if you set your mind to it. Always dream big because your dreams will most likely become true. All of this is only possible if you believe in yourself and if you have a true passion for what you do.
“Never work just for the money. Someone working at the Silo Hotel in Cape Town once told me that working in the hospitality industry is not a job, it’s a lifestyle.”