‘One of a kind’ College Chef Who Taught Jamie Oliver Retires

A chef who taught Jamie Oliver has hung up his apron for the last time after a teaching career spanning nearly three decades. Simon Stocker, 55, has retired from Westminster Kingsway College where he spent more than 27 years training hundreds of aspiring cooks including the TV chef and restauranteur.

He leaves his role as an Advanced Practitioner and Lecturer in Culinary Arts at the college’s Victoria Centre having originally joined WestKing as a part-time lecturer in September 1993.

Simon said: “I’ve enjoyed my years at the college and teaching our wonderful students. I taught Jamie Oliver in his last year at college and my first year of teaching. I feel very proud to have taught him and so many other chefs who have gone on to have fantastic careers.”

Simon had wanted to become a chef from the age of 11. He grew up in a family of publicans and his father was an Army cook during his National Service. His paternal grandparents ran a B&B and café and his step-grandmother on his mother’s side was a cook in Spain.

He studied for a Diploma in Advanced Cookery at Highbury College, Portsmouth, before moving to London in 1985 to work at a French restaurant. He continued training at Westminster College, which became Westminster Kingsway College following a merger in 2000. Over the next decade he carved a career at restaurants, clubs and casinos across London, moving up the ladder from commis chef to chef de partie to head chef, before joining WestKing.

During his time at WestKing, Simon met HRH The Prince of Wales at the college’s centenary celebrations in 2010, led a successful student team at the Culinary Olympics in Germany and travelled with students on trips to explore cuisines in other European countries.

Simon has also been a judge for many cookery competitions and won awards himself including the Craft Guild of Chefs Education Chef of the Year Award in 2009.

He said: “Cookery has changed a lot since I started in 1982. Everything we learnt was very much the French way with nouvelle cuisine very much in vogue. The range of ingredients we have at our disposal now is huge. Young chefs today are so lucky to be able to mix and match different cuisines.”

Simon lives in Surrey with his wife Claire and has two grown-up children. The couple will be moving to Gosport, Hampshire later this month.

He said: “I have been lucky enough to have worked with many fantastic chefs and colleagues throughout my career. I have learnt something from all of them and want to thank everyone who helped and supported me along the way.”

WestKing is part of Capital City College Group, London’s largest college group, and one of the country’s leading colleges in hospitality and culinary arts.

Gary Hunter, Deputy Executive Principal at the group, said: “Simon is one of a kind, in the true sense of the term. A dual professional, he is both an innovative and engaging teacher plus a talented and knowledgeable chef. He has inspired countless alumni for 27 years and epitomises the values of hard work and dedication to the culinary arts.

“There will be many chefs in the industry today who are indebted to Simon’s mentorship and teaching, and we wish him all the very best in his retirement from teaching and for the future.”

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