Mark Coombe is the genial principal at the Pretoria campus of Capsicum Culinary Studio, South Africa’s leading culinary institute.
  
Born in England, Coombe has more than 20 years’ experience in the catering industry – from working in a bakery from the age of 15, running chalets in the French Alps, to becoming the executive chef of two successful restaurants in the UK.
 
“I was then given the chance to come to South Africa and while here I ran my own restaurant for two years and then consulted. Now I have been afforded the amazing opportunity to be the principal at Capsicum Culinary Studio and pass on to a new generation what I have learnt,” says the chef who has run the campus since 2013 and lives in Pretoria East.
 
What do you believe gives Capsicum an edge over its competitors? Our professionalism and being remarkable
Why do you think so many alumni have been successful? Quality training from lecturers who have a wealth of knowledge and experience
What advice do you give to students? To persevere during the long, hard hours; you will reap the rewards eventually. The more experience you have in the beginning, the better chef you will be at the end
What advice do you have for anyone 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.
What are three latest food trends? Food using a cheaper cut of meat (pulled brisket/pork shoulder), smoking food, artistic plating
What chef do you admire most and why? Rick Stein. He owns around 14 restaurants in the UK, his dishes are simply but very effective with great, fresh flavours. He has travelled the world and brings international flavours into local food.
How do you rate the South African hospitality industry? It is growing but is a little behind the likes of Europe
What three ingredients would we always find in your kitchen? Pasta, chilli flakes and kale or spinach

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