Courtney is an extraordinary young woman. From our first meeting, she made an impression on me.
I have participated in many career days at various schools in KwaZulu-Natal and it’s quite an undertaking when my intake at Jackie Cameron School of Food & Wine is only 15 aspiring chefs. Courtney’s face was a picture of despair when she learnt… only 15, when I was presenting my school at the school she attended. Unbeknown to me she sent ‘spies’ to my stand to check how many names has been included on my ‘interested’ list. I was confused by this constant flow of girls – interspersed with Courtney - walking past my stand. I felt as though someone was going to jump out and shout, ‘this is Leon Schuster and you are on candid camera’. Little did I know then that she wanted to be the only person on my list!
Courtney qualified for an interview and, to demonstrate her flair, she brought with her a tray of cupcakes, ‘to die for’. The most complimentary testament I can disclose, is that I shared her gift with no one!
Courtney was a delightful person to have on my course. She was responsive, reliable, had a commanding presence, participated in conversations, spoke her mind – and was always prepared to push boundaries, and succeed. Long hours and hard work never deterred Courtney. She was always among the first to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in. Her strength of character led me to believe she would thrive in the culinary industry.
From early on in the course, Courtney demonstrated a leaning towards pastry and baking. She was not the classical-pink petite-four, cucumber-sandwich and bone-China kind of gal but had a trendy, cool edge to her style. That was the reason I knew she would thrive with Jason Lilley at Jason’s Bakery, for the practical placement section of the curriculum. He did me a favour accepting Courtney because he said he had become despondent with the general standard of students. I assured him Courtney would not let him, or me, down. Six months later Courtney graduated - and was offered a position at Jason’s Bakery.
Part of Courtney’s success can be attributed to her parents, Craig and Sam, who are greatly supportive, and it was my privilege to witness a family dream unfold. Some folk believe family businesses are detrimental to family wellbeing. My belief differs – and I know Courtney’s does, as well.
It came as a surprise – but not in amazement – when Courtney shared with me that she was opening her own bakery: The Dough Girl. I shall always remember the overwhelming sense of pride when I first visited her shop. The shelves were filled with her childhood favourites, as well as some interesting takes on our school recipes, and many tantalising treats inspired by her experience at Jason’s Bakery.
This has been a remarkable feat for a 20-year-old, intent on making her dream a reflection of herself – and what a worthwhile reflection that is.
Heartfelt congratulations to Courtney and her parents. For me, a trip to Durban is never without visiting Dough Girl.