• Embarking on an unexpected journey in 2008, Spectrum Chefs has become a culinary institution in Cape Town, transforming the lives of individuals on the autism spectrum and with special needs.

    Founded by a passionate educator and her son, Spectrum Chefs provides a nurturing environment where students can learn culinary skills, gain confidence and find a path to self-sufficiency.

    With a focus on inclusive education and personalised teaching, this unique academy has evolved into an esteemed establishment that offers accredited courses, skills development classes and a range of opportunities for aspiring chefs.

    What started as a homeschooling project for Shay, who is on the autism spectrum, quickly grew into a groundbreaking initiative. At the age of 17, Shay began working in the culinary industry without formal training, sparking the interest of a parent whose son had cerebral palsy.

    Despite having no prior experience teaching special needs students, the founder, battling multiple sclerosis and managing a catering business, courageously accepted the challenge. Word spread, and soon a diverse range of students seeking culinary education found their way to Spectrum Chefs.

    Spectrum Chefs
    Picture: Spectrum Chefs

    As the demand for their unique approach grew, Spectrum Chefs expanded its offerings. While Shay pursued his Chef’s course, the academy began teaching cooking skills at Bergvliet School’s Adult Enrichment Programme. In 2017, Shay returned from overseas and joined his mother in teaching, leading to the establishment of Spectrum Cooks.

    Recognising the need for an accredited cooking course in South Africa, they adopted the Asdan UK Foodwise Programme, which eventually led to employment opportunities for its graduates.

    In 2021, after relentless efforts to secure a recognised culinary curriculum for special needs students from the Education Department, Spectrum Chefs decided to take matters into their own hands. They developed their own curriculum and relocated to larger premises, giving birth to Spectrum Chefs Academy.

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    With their Quality Council for Trades & Occupations (QCTO) recognised curriculum and the Highfield International Programme, the academy now offers students the chance to obtain accreditation and enter the workplace with pride.

    Beyond their accredited courses for aspiring chefs and cooks, Spectrum Chefs also offers skills development cooking classes. These classes enable students to acquire valuable culinary skills, contribute to their households and build confidence in themselves.

    The academy’s ethos revolves around honesty, wholesomeness and professionalism, creating an inclusive and supportive environment where individuals can thrive.

    Spectrum Chefs
    Picture: Spectrum Chefs

    The culinary institution provides a range of courses tailored to meet different needs and aspirations, catering for individuals curious about the hospitality industry and interested in pursuing a career as a chef, aspiring chefs seeking comprehensive culinary education and training, and individuals who want to improve confidence, time management and self-worth.

    Spectrum Chefs stands as a beacon of hope and empowerment in Cape Town’s culinary landscape. From its humble beginnings rooted in passion and a desire to make a difference, the academy has grown into an institution that nurtures talents and changes lives.

    Through their accredited courses and skills development classes, Spectrum Chefs equips individuals with culinary skills, confidence and a sense of purpose.


    • Location: 7 Montrose Ave, Claremont
    • Times: Monday to Thursday: 9am to 4:30pm | Friday: 9am to 3:30pm
    • Website: spectrumcooks.co.za

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    Feature Image: Spectrum Chefs