You might recognise Pierre Van Heerden as our student blogger who recently spent a few months in Ireland at the Ballymaloe Cookery School, learning tricks of the trade from renowned chef, Darina Allen.
Pierre was born in Pretoria but has lived in Amanzimtoti for most of his life. He likes to say that he didn’t decide on a career path in the hospitality industry, he just simply knew it was his calling.
Here is Pierre’s story from his point of view…
I have a very strong personality; this is a good thing in my opinion. For the hospitality industry you need to have a strong personality, as you deal with a lot of people and problems. I’m an extremely determined person, and if I have my eyes on the prize, I will go all out for it!
I am loyal; this is a scarce trait in my opinion. I won’t turn on you after you’ve hurt me. The only time I won’t stand up for a person is when they give me a reason not to. A negative aspect about me is that I’m stubborn, especially when it comes to using ‘fresh food’. By fresh food I don’t mean having the word ‘fresh’ printed on the item – it usually has a lot of preservatives in the item to keep it fresh.
I picked up this phrase from one of my mentors: “always buy your vegetables with soil still on them”. I strongly believe in organic living. I believe in recycling and I drive my mother up the wall because I want to reuse every single thing!
What I love about hospitality
I always get asked why I decided to get into the hospitality industry, and it’s the hardest question to answer… I didn’t decide on this industry, I just simply knew it was my calling. Even though I’m only at the start of my career, I haven’t planned my career; it just happened to me.
I love the passion in hospitality – in some places you meet these people that live, breathe, and sleep hospitality. These people just give me a kick, probably because I can relate to them! You meet so many people that are stuck in a position, or unemployed, that have this beautiful sheer passion and drive for the industry, but because of their struggling backgrounds, they are not in the position to pursue their dreams…
This is where my dream comes in, which is to assist these people in fulfilling their dream. I want to do this with a non-profit restaurant, where I can train and improve the lives of people around me.
Unique life experiences
I’ve had a few actually: the FIFA World Cup 2010, the Good Food and Wine Show 2011 where I was Rachel Allen’s assistant, the Good Food and Wine Show 2012 where I was Cyrus Todiwalla’s assistant.
Attending Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery School – this was one of the best experiences ever. After assisting Rachel with her shows, she asked me what my dream is, and she invited me on stage to Ireland to come and work with her at her mother-in-law, Darina Allen’s, world-renowned cookery school!
Whilst at the school I made my own cheddar cheese. I learned a bit of organic farming, from harvesting onions in the rain, to harvesting a whole house full of garlic – by hand! I fell in love with the organic lifestyle and am trying to bring it back to South Africa. The funniest part of my experience was probably being chased by a cow!
What the future holds
I don’t plan my career; this is the same with my life. At the beginning of my journey with IHS, I didn’t see myself where I am now, and the changes that happened in my life were never even thought of.
I have an idea of running a non-profit restaurant and helping locals to make something of themselves, by teaching then how to farm, maybe organically, and giving them the opportunity to be able to supply nutritious meals to their children. If they can make some money from it, that will be a bonus.