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 By Cpl Tebogo Kekana, AD ASTRA Magazine, photo by WO2 David Nomtshongwana

Air Force Base (AFB) Bloemspruit’s Sgt Reetsang Letebele won the South African Air Force (SAAF) Chef of the Year competition for the Best Dessert and Main Course. The announcement was made during the SAAF Chef of the Year Prestige Award Evening held at Swartkop West on 26 November 2015.

Lt Col Etienne van Blerk, the MC, thanked the sponsors and congratulated the winner and finalists

“I am ecstatic, I am beside myself because this was my fourth attempt. In 2011 and 2013, I came second and only making the finalist’s list in 2014. I made it. Patience is key, I love cooking and I am passionate about everything that has to do with the preparation of food. The journey has been long, but now I know that it prepared me for today. Thank you to everyone who stood by me and believed in me”, explained the delighted Sgt Letebele.

Maj Gen Gerald Malinga marvelled at the standard and excellence of Sgt Reetsang Letebele as a winner

He will take part in the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) Chef of the Year Competition, which is held every three years. If he becomes the SANDF Chef of the Year winner, he will receive a proficiency badge that he would wear with the mustering badge on his uniform. Currently, the SAAF has three members who have had the honour of winning the SANDF Chef of the Year insignia and they are currently Training Facilitators at the SAAF School of Cookery.

The Chef of the Year competition provides the platform for military chefs who exhibit their most creative work. Furthermore, the competition is said to be one of the best opportunities to introduce the SAAF community and members of the public to the best culinary designs and demonstration of the highest level of food presentation skills, according to SAAF School of Cookery Principal, Maj Minerva Klaasen.

Maj Minerva Klaasen said she was proud of the strides made by the finalists and the winner

The South African Chef Association (SACA) was the judge for the competition, and the competition was strictly run according to SACA guidelines. Competitors were judged on, among other aspects; innovation, originality, preparation methods, presentation, and utilisation of groceries, kitchen management, planning and hygiene. The five members below, plus Sgt Letebele agreed that the competition was an extremely close affair, with only a mere point separating the top six from the rest.



WO2 James Maphisi from Bloemspruit was the 2nd Runner-up

Cpl Riekie Myburgh from AFB Waterkloof was the 1st Runner-up and Best Starter

Cpl Jane Phalane from AFB Hoedspruit

Sgt Tshepo Ramerafe from AFB Hoedspruit

Cpl Angelique Brits, AFB Langebaanweg

Congratulating the finalists and the winner, the Deputy Chief of the Air Force (Dep CAF), Maj Gen Gerald Malinga related a short story on how he knows his way around the kitchen but still hasn’t managed to match-up to the steak he once had at the School of Cookery some years ago. He admitted that as a self-taught cook, he loves good food and commended the efforts made by the SAAF School of Cookery. “Military Chefs used to boast about their ability to make use of whatever was available as part of their operational expertise. Over the past few years, the focus has moved to providing a competitive professional service on par with that of the civilian chef’s counterparts”, he said.

2015 SAAF Chef of the Year winner congratulated WO2 James Maphisi for being a good team player and friend

He extended his gratitude to the institution for its excellent support over the years and mentioned that; “The School of Cookery doesn’t only provide training for the Air Force, but also for the SA Army, SA Navy, SA Military Health Services and various other stakeholders. I am expressing the CAF’s gratitude to all Hospitality personnel for their dedication, loyalty and commitment to excellence. It is only for this reason that the Air Force is justifiably proud of the standard that its Hospitality Services provides. Congratulations to all finalists, especially Sgt Letebele for winning the SAAF Chef of the Year competition 2015”.

Lt Col Etienne van Blerk, who was the Master of Ceremonies shared his kitchen tips and promised to share some of his trusted old recipes with the Deputy CAF and thanked the people who made the evening possible, “Without the help of the sponsors, all this wouldn’t be possible. We believe that this is the beginning of a long and prosperous friendship with you”. The sponsors were represented as follow:

Mr Chris Pieterse from First for Blue Affiliated with Sanlam

Mr Blackie Swart from Assupol

Mrs Elmarie Rousouw from Avbob

Mrs s. Coetzee and Ms N. Vendel from Bidvest

Ms R. Stanton from SMS Hiring


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