Blog: Hospitality & Culinary Arts – a student and teacher perspective

WestKing Hospitality student Phoebe Berry

The third month of lockdown restrictions is well under way and we have all had to make changes and adapt to this new way of life. At Westminster Kingsway College, our hospitality students and teachers have had to find clever and creative ways to stay on top their game with this very hands-on subject whilst the college buildings are closed. In this blog Hospitality lecturer Marc Whitley and Culinary student Phoebe Berry share their unique experiences of teaching and learning during the lockdown.

Marc Whitley, Lecturer in Hospitality, Food and Beverage

“The lockdown has been a huge challenge for teachers across the country, but particularly for those teaching hands-on, practical subjects like hospitality and culinary arts. It’s been a steep learning curve for me and my students. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response from students, which has been better than I anticipated, and they have really bought into what we are trying to achieve, which is continuing education.

“I have had to think outside of the box while remaining within the curriculum (set by City and Guilds). For example, one assignment was for my students to set up a table at home, as they would in our award winning training restaurant in Victoria, The Escoffier Room. They had to go through the steps of taking an order, serving the food and clearing the table, as well serving and presenting a bottle of wine. For this front of house assignment, I asked them to video or take pictures of the different stages of the process, so that I could assess them and give immediate feedback. It was fun to see how they improvised on the equipment that they had at home from the starter through to the coffee service.

“We had an interesting array of guests, including dogs sitting in chairs, teddy bears, little brothers and sisters and grandparents. Some worked alone taking orders and holding conversations with stuffed animals! Others made it a family affair, enticing family members to play the role of customers. One student even had her front of house uniform, on which shows the level of commitment. The feedback I received was that our students were very proud to be showing off their skills to their families.

“We did this all through our Microsoft Teams software which is an apt name considering teamwork has never been stronger. I’ve found all the students are really pulling together during this time and helping each other out, which is great to see. I have also spoken to parents who are really supportive of how we are handling the current situation and the tools available to their children, especially the funding for laptops provided by the college.

“For the next four weeks I’ll have a new group of students who I have never met and who haven’t met me. This will be a new challenge but also a rewarding one. It’s an opportunity to prove exactly what you can achieve and what past life experiences you reach into to make this situation work. We are all working together in a way we haven’t before, which I know will carry on when we all return.

“This had been a learning and development exercise for us all and the lecturers in the Culinary Arts have been a great support to each other in making this work. WestKing may be closed but the teaching is continuing in the heart of the student’s homes.”

Phoebe Berry – Level 1 Professional Chef Diploma

“When the lockdown started, I was three weeks in to work experience at Lords Cricket Ground. It was such an amazing opportunity and I was really enjoying what I was learning in their three separate professional kitchens. Just before lockdown started, I was working in the pastry kitchen creating fine dining desserts for up to 300 people at a time. There is also the Committee Dining Room Kitchen, where the players eat during the cricket season and the Main Kitchen where the staff of Grounds eat. I was having a great time and learning a lot, so I was really disappointed it had to come to an end so abruptly. However, I’ve been offered a summer placement when this is over. It will be during the cricket season which is really exciting.

“Since the lockdown started our tutors have kept us busy with a range of learning methods, from online tasks to quizzes which has been interesting and fun. I’m quite confident on the theory and couldn’t wait to get back in the kitchen so when I was set the food sustainability task I jumped at the chance.

“The brief was to create a meal with only the ingredients that I had in my cupboard at home. In light of the pandemic, it’s difficult for people to make quick and regular trips to the supermarket. Making frugal meals with limited ingredients and food sustainability has never been more important. I then did a live demonstration of making the recipe which was filmed and uploaded to YouTube.

“I decided to make three separate meals using one whole chicken. Firstly, a classic roast dinner to feed a family. I boiled down the chicken carcass to create a stock and from this made a chicken risotto and an Asian chicken soup using the chicken leftovers. I was given technical support from my tutor and convinced my mum to film it!

“I was really surprised with the response to the video. I’ve had a ton of positive feedback. It was my first time in front of a camera and I really enjoyed doing it. I will definitely be creating more recipes and uploading them during the lockdown. My teachers have been really supportive during lockdown and the thing I miss most is the camaraderie of the kitchen. But his has been a great way to keep creating and keep honing my skills.”

Click this link to find out more about the hospitality and culinary arts courses at Westminster Kingsway College.

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