International Centre for Culinary Arts (ICCA) Dubai director and CEO Sunjeh Raja sits down with Louise Oakley at the launch of its new facility in Dubai Knowledge Village and reveals why its students are sought after all over the world
ICCA has been in existence for a long time now; why was this the right time to move its location?
We have been in this business since 2005 in Dubai, and we were in Satwa before this. We had grown in size and had to go to a much bigger place. Knowledge Village was a sensible choice.
Tell us more about your background and why you’re passionate about education?
I’m just an entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur you look for opportunities. It was a great opportunity when we had come here around 2004; there were so many hotels booming. We saw there was definitely scope for education and that’s how it started. It’s a great product and we took it very seriously to make a difference. We didn’t want to be yet another school. We are application-focused; we try and see how to relate to and support the industry.
Why did you choose to partner with City & Guild, London, for the certifications?
It’s very simple: when you want to provide a quality education, you need to have some international standards to benchmark with. Earlier, we had brought this concept from Australia, and we were part of the New South Wales Vocational Education Training and Accreditation Board. But it was too difficult to govern us from Australia. When we spoke to City & Guild, it was easy for us to partner with them.
How many students pass through ICCA’s programmes?
We are a very niche outlet. We take about 20 students in every batch, and we have an intake every six weeks. We run a three-month programme for vocational training where we simulate an actual industry work environment. We work at all the hotels; name the brand and we work with them. We produce smart people for the industry. Our USP is that we have a serious strategic partnership with many world-leading brands for equipment manufacturers like Electrolux, Franke, Diversey and so forth. So we have access to the highest quality and technology, and as a school we have been able to provide more than most schools can provide at this point of time.
How much was invested in the venue?
This will be close to an AED 11 million [US $2.99 million] project.
Interview continues on next page...