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South African Michelin-star chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen is excited to announce the launch of JAN Innovation Academy, an inspired online space for personal and skills development, in partnership with Checkers. With a range of curated short courses presented by Jan Hendrik and fellow experts in related industries, JAN Innovation Academy combines education, virtual mentorship and entertainment to inspire the next generation of creatives, entrepreneurs, movers and shakers.

The large-scale disruption of the education system caused by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has undeniably supercharged education technology, revolutionised the approach to online learning and firmly positioned it as fundamental in the educational ecosystem of the future. Through access to a smart device and minimal mobile data expenses, anyone could have access to premium quality developmental content curated in the courses available through JAN Innovation Academy.

JAN Innovation Academy believes that online skills development must be a special focus in South Africa, where education must be a top priority. All industries – especially the hospitality and creative industries – need more diverse educational offerings to reach a wider audience, and enable more people to enter the job market. The challenges, demands and psychological impact of the modern working world was one of the key reasons why Jan Hendrik and his team set out to develop a series of courses that allows access to his knowledge and skills, especially those who have less time to themselves due to longer working hours or other demands.

Every course in the JAN Innovation Academy uses personal storytelling as an approach to educate, upskill and entertain.

“I had to figure a lot of things out as I went along, without having a blueprint or a manual – or someone to teach me the soft skills I needed,” says Jan Hendrik. “So, I failed at a lot of things. But I’ve had some great wins. I’ve learned a lot through this process that I can now, hopefully, through the JAN Innovation Academy, share with others – the ones who have the passion and creative energy to turn their dreams into something real.”

“My dream is for the JAN Innovation Academy to be a place where the stories, insights and lessons my friends and I share can be the difference in whether someone opens that restaurant, starts painting that canvas… or not. We want to inspire others to take that leap of faith and to show up for their dreams,” says Jan Hendrik.

JAN Innovation Academy, in partnership with Checkers, allows access to a range of personal stories and teachings by Jan Hendrik and fellow restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, chefs, creatives and other industry experts. The platform, steered by video lessons and other supporting material, aims to teach soft skills that can improve marketability in the workplace, and help learners to achieve their personal and professional goals while being entertained during the learning process.

“Through our partnership with JAN Innovation Academy, Checkers hopes to encourage and inspire more people to learn about the food industry, and ultimately to become innovative entrepreneurs within this space. Not only do we share a love of food, but Jan Hendrik does not compromise on quality, and neither does Checkers. It therefore made sense to join forces on this exciting initiative,” says Willie Peters, General Manager: Marketing at Checkers.

The JAN Innovation Academy virtual learning platform can be accessed anytime, anywhere on desktop or mobile devices. The downloadable app allows offline access to learning materials for iOS and Android devices.



Jan Hendrik’s journey to becoming the first South African chef to obtain a Michelin star has captured the imaginations of foodies around the world. To be taken up in the Michelin firmament is arguably the culinary world’s highest honour. But to venture to France and to receive this accolade in Michelin territory, is a rare feat.

Growing up in the heart of South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, Jan Hendrik developed a unique relationship with food. He spent his childhood evading a certain destiny as a tractor-wielding farmer’s son, instead taking to a life in the kitchen, where – nurtured by his mother and grandmothers – he refined a talent that would one day lead him to open a celebrated restaurant on the French Riviera.

In 2016, less than three years after opening its doors, JAN received its first Michelin star. Later, Jan Hendrik expanded JAN’s borders by introducing MARIA, a bespoke dining concept named after his grandmother, who had a profound impact on his cooking.

Jan Hendrik’s award-winning début cookbook, The French Affair, featured recipes from his childhood and was very well received by readers and critics alike. His second bestseller, JAN – A Breath of French Air, picked up where The French Affair ended by capturing the mood and inspiration of the dishes served at Restaurant JAN.

In October 2017, Jan Hendrik launched his first TV show also entitled, JAN, which is now airing its third season. This breathtaking culinary travelogue captures Jan Hendrik’s journey to Michelin stardom and follows him around France and Italy, from which he draws enormous inspiration in his work. This SAFTA award-winning show premiered to a South African audience and is available to stream internationally.

JAN the Journal – Jan Hendrik’s bi-annual luxury food and lifestyle publication – launched in May 2018, and chronicles Jan Hendrik and his team’s culinary voyage of discovery through a series of recipes and stories that explore the people, places and ingredients behind the food we eat.

With the launch of Restaurant Klein JAN at Tswalu Kalahari – one of South Africa’s leading private game reserves – in 2021, and by establishing JAN Innovation Studio in Cape Town, JAN has become firmly rooted in home soil.


“My heritage informs everything I do, most especially my work as a chef. But through every journey I’ve ever undertaken, I’ve always believed in being honest with myself, being curious, mindful of the impact my actions have on others, and in surrounding myself with great people.”

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