Brother Charles De Kock of Johannesburg Central congregation is no stranger to the fact that with faith, kindness, hard work, and determination, a person can change their life for the better. This is what he hopes will inspire the hospitality students at RLabs Jozi where he volunteers every Saturday.
Having started as a cleaner in the laundry section at the then Clinic Holdings (Netcare Garden City Hospital) and having worked in every department of a kitchen, Brother De Kock has been in the hospitality industry for over 20 years and is currently a Project Catering Manager for Compass Group South Africa at Netcare Milpark Hospital.
He says from a very young age he was interested in cooking, peeping through the kitchen window when his mother made food. “My taste buds tickled me when I saw my mother making food and I knew at that time what my career path will be. My mother makes the best green bean curry and cabbage stew and even today I cannot master the art of making those two dishes. I guess I must have not peeped enough through the window.”
After he finished schooling at Northern Cape Technical School, he moved to Johannesburg to look for a job. He then found a job at the Garden City Hospital, and after a few months in the laundry section, he was transferred to the kitchen and worked as a cleaner. “While cleaning I used to watch what the chefs were doing and I assisted them in various tasks like peeling and cleaning vegetables. I was then promoted to a vegetable chef and received promotions such as meat chef, cold kitchen chef, menu coordinator, catering supervisor and as they say the rest is history.”
Give and it will be given to you
Given his life’s journey and his passion for his work, Brother De Kock now volunteers every Saturday at RLabs Jozi where he gives hospitality training to the community of Westbury, Newclare, Mayfair, and Coronation, and even as far as Soweto. The centre is a non-profit organisation in Hursthill which provides free training to the unemployed youth and adults. It employs a holistic approach and serves people from all walks of life, striving to address the educational, emotional and physical needs as and when required.
He says it is very important for him to give back to the community because he comes from a home where his mother always taught them to be humble and teach the next person. “I feel that I need to do my bit for the community and assist where and when I can. As they say it is better to give than to receive, and giving back is also good in enabling the community to help themselves and their families.
“I want to make a positive impact in the lives of the students,” he continues, “as I want to help strengthen communities. Often what a great effort needs is a great leader and I want to lead by example, I want to share my expertise, to improve the skills and experience of someone else so they can benefit.”
He highlighted the Bible verse from Acts 20: 35, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’’
And adds: “We find God in all things. It is being in a place where we are more aware of the small, everyday moments of joy, light and human connection that we become true witness to God. Giving is a blessing. I feel very blessed.”
Helping people grow
Having started with RLabs Jozi in 2014, Brother De Kock has trained a total of 60 students and has also managed to get employment for 10 of them. The hospitality training includes classes on being a chef, waitron and hostess, food hygiene, food costing, as well as designing menus. In addition, the training ensures that students carry out their practicals at South African hotels and restaurants.
He said by changing how people feel about themselves, through little moments of mentoring, can have great impacts on people and their communities as he has discovered with his students. “I engage students in conversation and provide constructive and supportive feedback. It is important to give honest advice as gently as possible.”
He adds: “Looking out for the students’ growth is very important as I understand their background and I can relate to it. Having someone supportive when things go wrong is the difference, in my mind, between and adequate mentor and a great one.”
A believer of always bettering oneself and growing, Brother De Kock has obtained numerous certificates, the recent being an International City and Guilds Diploma from HTA school of Culinary Arts. He has also won numerous cooking and chef of the year competitions such as Netcare Chef Competition Winner 2006, 2009 and 2012.
* Article by Rivonia Naidu-Hoffmeester
* Article originally appeared on the New Apostolic Church-South East Africa website