At the start of this academic year, Michelin-star chef Michel Roux welcomed our new Hospitality and Culinary Arts students and apprentices to Westminster Kingsway College. Here he shares more about his passion for cooking and how to be a success in the industry.
You did an apprenticeship. Can you tell us about your first day at college?
I remember when I started at college and my very first day, getting dressed up and making sure I was presentable but feeling really nervous, but those lovely nerves of excitement. It was such an exciting time going to college at what was the beginning of a wonderful journey.
What advice would you give to aspiring chefs?
I have always advised them to go to college. I think it is so, so important to have a proper qualification in our industry, in fact in any industry. College might seem unnecessary at times because you are learning so much in your workplace [on an apprenticeship] but it is 100 per cent necessary to do your qualification work.
What do you remember about your apprenticeship?
I absolutely loved my apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is amazing. It’s not just learning for skills, but it’s also life skills. That’s why I will always recommend an apprenticeship with a college. I remember my final exam, and what I had to cook. I don’t think I will ever forget that, but I passed with flying colours.
How do you cope with the pressure of running a busy kitchen?
There’s always pressure. If you don’t enjoy pressure, then maybe you’re not cut out to work in this industry. I enjoy sport and I find that is a great release and a way to work with pressure, even if it’s only 15-20 minutes of physical exercise it’s great for your mental health.
What do you look for when recruiting a new chef?
It’s difficult to put it in a nutshell, but above all it’s a passion and desire to learn. You never stop learning. I’m still learning at my age and that’s important. This industry is continuously changing and evolving and that’s what makes it so enjoyable.
What do you think of the chef training at WestKing?
This is one of the best colleges in London. The Roux family have been sending its apprentices here for 40 years. The people who train here achieve greatness. There are lots of opportunities in our industry. Whatever you choose to do always remember to keep smiling and enjoy it, and maybe one day some of you will be working alongside me.
Why is hospitality such a great sector to work in?
I love everything about hospitality. If you want to work in our industry, you should be proud of that because it has so much to give, and you get so much personal satisfaction. I love what I do every day. I get up, jump out of bed and really look forward to my day ahead because every day is different, and every day is a different challenge. There’s a job for everyone at every level. Whether you’re aiming to be a Michelin-star chef or front of house, a sommelier or a waiter working up to management, find a place where you are happy.
Michelin-star chef Michel Roux welcomed newly enrolled Hospitality and Culinary Arts students and apprentices as they got a flavour of life at Westminster Kingsway College.
Around 350 aspiring chefs, hoteliers and waiters attended the event at the college’s Victoria Centre on 13 September, which included cookery demonstrations, fun games and activities and trade stands from many of the hospitality industry suppliers that work with the college.
Michel, who owns La Gavroche restaurant in Mayfair, insisted there was a job for everyone in hospitality whether in the kitchen or front of house and stressed the importance of qualifications.
He said: “This is one of the best colleges in London. The Roux family have been sending its apprentices here for 40 years. The people who train here, like your good selves, achieve greatness.
“There are lots and lots of opportunities in our industry. Whatever you choose to do, always remember to keep smiling and enjoy it, and maybe one day some of you will be working alongside me.”
The new students enjoyed plenty of fun activities including trying their hand at icing and decorating cupcakes, making a crepe suzette and mixing mocktails.
WestKing works with a wide range of culinary industry partners, many of which were represented at the event.
Students learnt about the supply of fruit and vegetables with DDP Ltd and how to blend their own smoothies using various ingredients with kitchen equipment supplier Thermomix.
The event also featured stands from the Craft Guild of Chefs, The Caterer magazine, catering suppliers Flint & Flame, Koppert Cress and Mozzo Coffee, Compass Group and HRC, an annual expo for hospitality and food service professionals.
Also present was BSG, which gives hospitality and culinary students the opportunity to gain internships at prestigious private clubs, hotels and resorts in the United States.
Students got to try Afro-Caribbean inspired flavoured ice creams from Ice Cream & Ting, started by former WestKing student Opy Odutayo, who is a chef at Mortimer House in Fitzrovia.
There was also a free to enter raffle to win prizes including two tickets to see the musical Wicked at The Apollo, a basket of fruit, a chopping board from Rough Stuff Oak, a kitchen knife from Flint & Flame, a £50 Amazon voucher and copies of In a Class of Their Own, a book on the WestKing’s hospitality and culinary school’s history.
Hospitality and Culinary Arts at WestKing
We are the UK’s leading school of Hospitality & Culinary Arts with our world-class facilities, on site restaurants, leading chef lecturers and guest speakers plus links and collaborations with the international hospitality industry.
Apply for Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses
Sam Neil, 16, who has just started a Professional Chef Level 1 Diploma, said: “I’ve been interested in cooking for a few years. One of my grandad’s friends runs a catering company and suggested I look at working in hospitality. She said if you want to be a chef you should go to WestKing. My careers adviser at school told me it’s the best college they know for hospitality.
“Being a chef involves long hours, tough work but it’s a rewarding career. You get to show what you’re about through the food, rather than sitting in an office doing work you’re not interested in.
“I’ve really enjoyed today. It’s been good to meet some chefs and get a feel for what the hospitality industry is like. I’m only in the first few weeks of training and getting the basics done, but I’m properly excited to start cooking, get to know people and about the whole college experience.”
Ellie Paphitis, also 16 and studying the same course, said: “I’ve been enjoying cooking since I was young, especially baking and making pastries. I was going to go to sixth form and do A Levels, but I changed my mind because I wanted to do something I was really passionate about. I’ve tried a lot of things, but cooking is the one thing I’ve stuck with in my life. I also have a lot of influences in my family because they like to cook as well.
“A lot of us are aspiring to be like Michel Roux and it was very motivational and inspiring to hear from him. It made me feel like I’m not so far away, and if I really try my best and work towards what I want to be, then I can do it.
“There has been lots going on today. I’ve tried some fruits, vegetables and some garnishes. I’ve not heard of any other college doing anything like this. I’ve been able to speak to other students and teachers. It’s really brought everyone together.”
The Burnt Chef Project, which provides mental health support for the UK hospitality industry, also attended the event along with other support organisations including SASH London, Mind, Insight and WestKing’s own Student Services team.
Miranda Quantrill, Curriculum Manager for Hospitality and Culinary Arts, said: “We were delighted to officially welcome our new students and apprentices starting this year, as well giving our second and third years an opportunity to network and have fun, and what could be more exciting than to have Michel Roux inspire them as they start their hospitality journey!
“The day was a hive of activity and gave students the chance to settle into life at college – which can be quite daunting if you have just left school – and to find out more about the incredible industry they will be gaining the skills and knowledge to work in over the next few years.”
Figures show that one in six new jobs created in the UK over the past year was in the hospitality sector, the equivalent of 133,000 new roles. Find out more about out Hospitality and Culinary courses here and apprenticeship here. Enrol now.
A chef lecturer and an apprentice from Westminster Kingsway College are celebrating after being named winners in the prestigious Craft Guild of Chef Awards 2022.
Jose Souto, who has taught at the college for 18 years, scooped the Chef Lecturer Award, while chef de partie apprentice Grace Hawksley was presented with the Apprentice Chef Award.
The Craft Guild of Chefs Awards recognise exceptional talent in the industry, from apprentice and young chefs starting out to established chefs in hospitality, pubs and restaurants.
Jose and Grace received their awards from Andrew Green, Chief Executive of the Craft Guild of Chefs, and Nick Vadis, Culinary Director of Compass Group UK respectively, at a glittering ceremony at Magazine London in Greenwich on 9 June.
Before joining WestKing, Jose had worked as a Chef de Partie at the House of Commons for more than 20 years where he began as a sous chef. During this time he also worked at The Ritz, The InterContinental, Mosimann’s and the Savoy Grill.
Grace, 19, from Haywards Heath, is undertaking her Level 3 Apprenticeship at the four-star Gravetye Manor hotel in East Grinstead having completed a Commis Chef Level 2 Apprenticeship last year.
Young chef Lorcán wins Compass Apprentice Chef of the Year
WestKing commis chef apprentice Lorcán Leavy has been named Compass Group UK’s Apprentice Chef of the Year.
Lorcán, from Tower Hamlets, was among eight apprentice chefs who took part in a competition at the contract catering company’s head office in Chertsey to win the award.
Each chef was tasked with creating two courses in two hours using a mystery box of ingredients that included chicken, mackerel and seasonal produce.
Lorcán, who is training with Restaurant Associates, said: “I’m really happy to have won, it’s been a really good learning experience and has taught me to stay calm under pressure.”
All the entrants have been invited to cook at the Apprenticeship of the Year dinner at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in July.
Congratulating Jose and Grace on behalf of the WestKing hospitality and culinary team, WestKing Assistant Principal Terry Tinton said: “Jose is an amazing educator that dedicates his work and personal time to training and supporting the next generation of chefs.
“As a senior lecturer he works tirelessly to ensure the college engages with the industry and that our curriculum offer exceeds the needs of our partners.
“Grace has always been an exceptional student and this accolade is a testament to her hard work and professionalism. The entire apprenticeship team has done a fantastic job, training, mentoring and support Grace through her studies.”
Steve Munkley, Vice President of the Craft Guild of Chefs, said: “This has been a year of exceptional challenges and I am so proud to see that we have so many worthy winners.”
Have you considered a career in the exciting hospitality industry? Chefs are in demand throughout the UK and London is a major culinary hotspot, so you too could follow Jose and Grace into the kitchen by studying at Westminster Kingsway College – one of the UK’s top culinary schools. Apply now for Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses and apprenticeships.
Since it began in March, the Coronavirus lockdown has provided an opportunity for students of Westminster Kingsway College’s renowned School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts to put down their utensils and engage with renowned chefs.
The college – home to London’s leading culinary school – has hosted four online ‘lockdown’ question and answer Masterclasses for students so far, with chefs Ben Murphy, Freddie Forster, Selin Kiazim and Andrew Wong – all of whom are former students of the college. The Masterclasses gave students a unique opportunity to hear the alumni talk about their careers so far and what they have learned along the way, as well as their top tips for success.
The first Masterclass was on 1 April with Ben Murphy, head chef at Launceston Place restaurant in London’s Kensington, who gave a ‘warts and all’ talk about his career. Ben graduated from our Professional Chef Diploma course in 2010 aged just 19 and went on to work in France and at the five-star Berkeley Hotel, Knightsbridge. He said: “The college is the foundation of everything that I learned, from holding a knife to making a base for a sauce.
“But it wasn’t just the cooking. I learned how to be more patient, how to respect my elders and those who know more than me.” He went on to talk about those that influenced his career including mentor Norman Fu and his tutors at WestKing, whose advice and feedback he still seeks. Career highlights for Ben include being driven by Pierre Koffmann to the south of France to work in a 3 Michelin starred restaurant. “It was tough, but I learned a lot and eventually I think I earned their respect,” he said. Providing inspiration to the next generation of culinary and hospitality professionals, Ben told them: “You get out what you put in. The harder you work, the more you get. Live your best life, be happy and have no regrets.”
The next chef to share their expertise and experience with students was Saturday Kitchen regular and former Head Chef at le Pont de la Tour restaurant in London, Freddie Forster, on 8 April. Describing his decision to stay at the college and complete his final year as “the best decision I ever made,” Freddie graduated from the three-year Professional Chef Diploma course in 1990 and went on to work for Raymond Blanc in a career that has taken him all over the world. Freddie’s Masterclass covered everything from his favourite dishes to cook and eat, to staying positive and setting goals. Freddie provided a unique insight into the impact of the pandemic and how he believes it will affect the service industry. He discussed the need for restaurants to be more vigilant on spending money and how hygiene practices will change. You can watch it here:
Our third culinary Masterclass was on 23 April, with Selin Kiazim, who graduated from the college in 2008. Students logged in to hear her talk about her time at WestKing and how competing in culinary competitions helped shape her future. One of these competitions resulted in her winning a five-week trip to New Zealand where she met world famous chef Peter Gordon. She went on to work for him and eventually became head chef at the Kopapa restaurant. Trying to establish herself in her own right, she then ran several pop ups across the UK and it was only after a career-changing review from Giles Coren in The Times that she gained confidence in her Turkish Cypriot cuisine and opened her restaurant Oklava in 2015. Selin also competed on The Great British Menu in 2017 and her dessert was selected for the final banquet.
Students questioned Selin on being a female in a male-dominated industry. She talked about the harsh reputation that working in kitchens has and how working for Peter Gordon taught her that nurturing her staff is important. “The way that I treat people and the way I run my kitchen is very much in line with him [Peter Gordon],” she said. Watch Selin in action:
Andrew Wong – the host of our fourth Masterclass – grew up in a culinary family. His parents were restaurateurs, but the young Andrew was much more interested in studying to go to university than helping out in the kitchen – indeed he deliberately threw himself into his studies so he wouldn’t have to work in his mum and dad’s traditional Chinese restaurant. But people, and circumstances, change and after leaving university and training to be a chef at Westminster Kingsway College, Andrew is a highly accomplished chef with a Michelin Star for his restaurant A. Wong. Watch his Masterclass here:
Programme Manager for the Professional Chefs Diploma at Westminster Kingsway College, Paul Jervis, said: “We are a very well-connected college and these Masterclasses are a unique chance for students to hear first-hand from people who are not only their heroes in the industry, but who, like them, have studied here. We’ve been delighted to run four Masterclasses so far and we are really grateful to Ben, Freddie, Selin and Andrew for taking part.”
“We have a lot of other talented and successful culinary alumni who we keep in regular contact with. We’re pleased that so many of them want to help inspire the next generation of chefs and so we’re planning more Masterclasses, with more alumni, as the lockdown continues.
Find out more about our Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses here.