Centenary 1910-2010 | Westminster Kingsway College

Centenary 1910-2010

College History

Westminster Kingsway College – School of Hospitality Centenary (1910-2010)

Westminster Kingsway College’s School of Hospitality in Vincent Square was formed one hundred years ago when a committee of concerned academics and hospitality representatives, which included Auguste Escoffier and Isidore Salmon, came together to develop a school for professional cookery. The first course to be developed was the Cookery Technical Day School, which was soon to be formulated into the Professional Chef Diploma, which is still going strong today.

The current School of Hospitality provides an outstanding foundation for students seeking success in the hospitality sector of the United Kingdom and the global community.  The School’s academic programmes are structured to ensure the development of core competencies and essential professional chef, service and hospitality skills.  This is accomplished through an emphasis on student team building, case analyses, extracurricular activities and internships.  We have had many highly successful and noted alumni graduate through this College since our doors opened in 1910.  Our internationally recognised Professional Chef Diploma and hospitality programmes graduate truly exceptional young men and women, who are well equipped to solve the problems facing the hospitality community.

History of the School of Hospitality at Westminster Kingsway College (1910 to present day)

Westminster Kingsway College’s School of Hospitality has a long history of education in the hospitality and catering industry. In 1907-08 a consultative committee, which included the masterchefs and great hoteliers, Isidore Salmon, Auguste Escoffier and Cesar Ritz, was established to design training programmes in professional cookery in readiness to produce graduates. 

Many of London’s finest hotels were being opened during this period in a new age of hospitality for the 20th century, including the Ritz Hotel London opened in 1906, the Waldorf Astoria in 1908 and the family-run Goring Hotel in 1910.

The Westminster Technical Institute in central London was chosen as the location for the new Catering School. The Westminster Technical Institute was first established in 1894 in a two storey building provided by Baroness Burdett-Coutts on Vincent Square. A lady of immense wealth and charity, Baroness Burdett-Coutts had founded the nearby St Stephen’s Church on Rochester Row and the Burdett-Coutts School.

At first, evening classes were offered in subjects such as building and plumbing trades, carriage-building, and elementary subjects. However, the Institute soon offered a wide range of industrial related courses and held examinations for the City & Guilds and the Society of Arts.

Following the consultations with the hospitality industry in London, the Catering School first opened its doors in 1910 under the guidance of the first Principal, J. Stuart Ker. Records show that this was in fact the first Catering School to open and was later to become part of Westminster Kingsway College.

The 1910 prospectus illustrates the range of courses and the relative status of them within the Institute. Evening courses in Civil Engineering, Gas Engineering, Architecture and Construction, Cabinet Making, School of Art and finally, the Cookery Technical Day School (for boys only). The latter course was unique, offering boys aged 14-16 years old a three-year course in culinary skills. This has continued and is known now as our Professional Chefs Diploma for students from 16 years old. 

The catering school was founded in Westminster to specifically educate young men working at the top hotels and restaurants in the capital. By 1912, Catering had four pages in the prospectus and a School for Waiters was added, with a training restaurant, now called The Vincent Rooms, open to students. 

At the time, the majority of head chefs employed in London were from France, led by the Chef de Cuisine Auguste Escoffier at the Savoy Hotel. Auguste Escoffier founded the Société Culinaire Française with Chef Emile Fetu in 1903, later to merge with the Club Culinaire to become the Association Culinaire Française. Auguste Escoffier was passionate about helping young chefs and was a member of the board that founded the catering school in 1910 at Westminster Technical College (later Westminster Kingsway College).

The interwar years saw the continuation of the evening classes in engineering and art and the day courses in catering. Mr Ker, Principal since 1907, was replaced in 1932 by Dr G. N. Long. Major extensions to the building in Vincent Square, particularly to incorporate the needs of the catering courses, followed. Large scale catering equipment, cold rooms, a larder and pastry areas were added in 1932. A two-year Hotel Managers’ course was established alongside the food service course. There were plans for a 50 bedroom training hotel which had begun construction in 1939. Unfortunately, this was stopped as a result of the outbreak of the Second World War and was never completed. In 1949 the Institute was re-named Westminster Technical College and its courses were restricted to post-school level. The day school for younger boys was taken off the curriculum.

In 1951 the Vincent Rooms restaurant was extended and in 1953, the Escoffier Room opened; a fine dining room that is named after one of the College’s patrons, Auguste Escoffier. During this period further kitchens were added as well as a wine cellar. The number of courses for both chefs and front of house students also continued to grow.   

The School of Hospitality became part of Westminster Kingsway College following the merger of two colleges in 2000 and it was proud to receive Centre of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) status and later the Training Quality Standard. The School of Hospitality was also graded ‘Outstanding’ at its most recent Ofsted inspection and has won many awards for its outstanding food and service in the two restaurants and for education from many industry organisations including the Craft Guild of Chefs, Academy of Culinary Arts, Master Chefs of Great Britain, Hospitality Guild, People First as well as being a National Skills Academy in Hospitality.

In 2010, the School of Hospitality celebrated its 100th anniversary. As part of the centenary celebrations, the College welcomed HRH The Prince of Wales on a visit to the Victoria Centre where he toured the teaching kitchens and met staff and students as well as a group from the Princes Trust that were being trained by the College.

In 2012, Westminster Kingsway College launched its new innovative teaching kitchens at the Victoria Centre with a launch event for stakeholders, sponsors, College Governors, staff and students. The new facilities include Baroness Burdett-Coutts Kitchen for International Culinary students; Culinary Science and Kitchen Innovation Laboratory; and Chocolate Laboratory.

Today, Westminster Kingsway College’s Victoria Centre in Vincent Square houses the School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality, Higher Education Degrees in Hospitality and Tourism Management, Business and Enterprise courses through the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy and English courses as well as being the location of the College’s famous restaurant, The Vincent Rooms. 

For further information about the College’s history or to contact the College email wkc@westking.ac.uk.


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