My College

These are synopses of my past postings on my college studies and work experience and on what's happening these days at my alma mater, Westminster Kingsway College. Click on the links for the posts.

December 20, 2009Westminster Kingsway QualityAlthough I'm not into competitive cooking myself, my former college continues to maintain an outstanding record of success in this field. The latest rising star is Selin Kiazim, who was a year below me at Westminster Kingsway. Over the past two years she has won several competitions and been a runner-up in others. Selin is destined to be a name to watch out for in the years to come.
April 17, 2009'Allo 'Allo!It's less than two years since I graduated from Westminster Kingsway College, so far too early for any of my peers to be launching their own restaurant ventures. But that's exactly what one of them has done, with the opening of the Toulouse Lautrec Brasserie & Wine Bar in Kennington, South London. Florent Regent was my supervisory 3rd year when I was a 2nd year student and he seems to be getting great reviews for his new project. Good luck to him!
January 19, 2009Westminster Kingsway Student Wins Stage At El BulliHere's a story that got away. While I was celebrating my birthday with my parents last November, I completely missed the announcement that a student from my former college WestKing, had won the Spanish Young Chef Of The Year competition, aimed at promoting the best use of Spanish regional produce in British cuisine. And the prize - a short stage at El Bulli. What an amazing experience for a third-year hospitality student!
April 10, 2008You've Seen The you can read the books. With the publication recently of Professional Chef NVQ Level 3, the set of text books written by staff in the Hospitality Department of Westminster Kingsway College to accompany the three-year NVQ Professional Chef Diploma course is complete. In this post I discuss the options facing a wannabe chef and the costs associated with going to college in London for three years.
November 10, 2007The Prime Minister CallsWestminster Kingsway has a reputation as Britain's leading catering college and anyone who studies there can expect to meet top chefs, celebrities and others engaged in the hospitality and leisure industries. But I never got to meet the Prime Minister while I was there, whereas last Monday Gordon Brown turned up at the college with two of his cabinet colleagues. Their mission was to promote the government's proposals to extend compulsory education and training to the age of 18. And the Cookery & Food Preparation NVQ at WestKing was put forward as a model for youth training.
October 11, 2007Hats Off To Westminster Kingsway!Being able to run the kitchens at hospitality shows and meet celebrity chefs was one of the most rewarding experiences of my college studies. Unfortunately, I couldn't attend The Restaurant Show this year, but I was delighted to see the new generation of Westminster Kingsway students offering a fusion tapas menu: East Meets West. At long last we're starting to move on from classical Modern European cuisine!
July 26, 2007Down Under Up Here At LastIt's taken me a long time to organise my Diploma third year Gastronomy Project report for publication, but I've done it at last. The first two parts discuss the development of Australian cuisine from Aboriginal beginnings through European settlement, Asian influences and eventual rediscovery of indigenous culture and emergence of a new Australian cuisine. In the third part I explain the thinking behind my restaurant menu development and in the final part I present my menu and summarise my conclusions. I hope you enjoy reading my work.
July 09, 2007It's Been A Long Three YearsAlmost exactly three years ago I travelled to Westminster Kingsway College in Victoria to start a six-hour ordeal of interviews, academic tests and practical tests that finally led to my being accepted on the NVQ3 Professional Chef Diploma course. Yesterday I returned to Vincent Square, apprehensively. I thought I'd done OK, but I couldn't be certain. Although I'd worked hard, I hadn't exactly been a conformist to the traditions of French haute cuisine. I was absolutely delighted to be awarded a Diploma with Merit. I feel very proud.
July 06, 2007ANZAC BiscuitsOne of the dishes on my Australian gourmet menu was Quandong Pavlova with forest peppermint ANZAC biscuit and I cooked this recently as part of the practical examinations for my diploma. I liked these antipodean war-time rations so much that I baked some at home a fortnight later and this post describes my experience.
June 19, 2007Dig For VictoryOur latest class excursion on our Development rotation took us to The Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, where they have created a World War II "Dig For Victory" allotment, alongside a more modern vegetable patch. This project, aimed at schools and colleges, explores the themes of gardening, vegetable growing, healthy eating and sustainability, in the context of WWII and today.
June 09, 2007Gone Fishin'I'm sure everyone is going to think that a day's fishing is just an excuse for a lazy day off college, but this organised excursion was part of my college "development" rotation aimed at giving students a better understanding of the sources of food. Well, that's the official line. Read the post to discover exactly what I caught on my fishing trip.
May 06, 2007Food In The Garden, RevisitedI never thought I'd see the day when food gathered in my garden was served to the public in a fine dining restaurant. It makes me feel quite like Raymond Blanc. Except that this was not food from my herb garden, but good old Hackney snails. Read this to discover how I complied with the food hygiene laws and how we cooked and presented the little molluscs.
April 02, 2007Five Weeks In The LarderIn recent weeks I've been on Larder rotation, where I've been given the freedom to design and produce my own canapés for the Escoffier Room Restaurant. It's been a great experience getting away from the hustle and bustle of the hot kitchen for a while and putting my creative skills to use. I've tried to be inventive, with new combinations as well as more traditional ingredients.
February 02, 2007Fine Dining At LastOn Monday morning I stepped into the kitchen of The Escoffier Room to start cooking as a fine dining chef. Up until now much of the food I've been cooking is what's generally described as "brasserie". Now that I've had some experience of both, I explain in this posting how the kitchens of these two types of restaurant operate very differently.
January 23, 2007Brakes Student Challenge 2007Each year major British food supplier Brakes organises a Student Chef National Challenge involving catering students from around the country. Last year, my college team won the southern regional heats and secured third place in the national finals. It's that time of year again and congratulations are due to the Westminster Kingsway teams competing in this year's competition, who have been awarded first and second place in the Southern regional heat.
January 16, 2007A Day In The LifeI thought you might be interested to know what my typical day is like. In Years 1 and 2 there's plenty of classroom work, leading to the certificates required for work in a professional kitchen. Third year is focused on practical cooking - with just the odd lecture and with written project work performed at home afterwards. I'm posting a photo diary of my day to show you what life's like as as a 3rd-year catering student.
January 10, 2007The Postman Always Knocks LoudlyFor my college third year gastronomy project I have been working on Australian native produce and spices and their role in the new developing Australian cuisine. Today the postman delivered a parcel from down under, containing an assortment of oils and spices from Vic Cherikoff.
December 14, 2006Thank You Guys Down Under ThereIn late November I posted an appeal for help with my Australian gastronomy project. Food blogger Haalo gave me some pointers to top Australian hotel restaurants, which taught me about the influence of modern European cooking. And I was thrilled to receive helpful and supportive communications from Australian food experts Sibylla Hess-Buschmann and Vic Cherikoff.
December 13, 2006Game On!We had an interesting and seasonal practical demonstration at college on Monday. Chef lecturer and game enthusiast José Souto gave a lesson based on an array of different wild animals he brought into college. He explained how to identify the different birds on display, showing the contrasting features between the male and female of each species such as colouring and markings, and explained their migration habits and seasonal availability.
November 21, 2006My Down Under MenuI've been developing an Australian menu for my third-year Gastronomy project. After extensive research, I've submitted my first attempt, which I list here and expand on one item from each course. I have tried to incorporate many of the indigenous Australian products that I came across, using sensible combinations and suitable cooking techniques.
November 02, 2006Advance Australia FareI've been busy researching for my third-year Gastronomy project. Each student is allocated a country and is required to work within the bounds of the national cuisine(s) to formulate a three-course gastronomic menu suitable for a top hotel restaurant. I've been allocated Australia. I shall be taking into account that European catering arrived 230 years ago, whereas the Aboriginal peoples have been cooking for about 40,000 years.
October 20, 2006My Week As Head ChefThis week I've been Head Chef in the butchery at college. As part of our Supervisory Management course, which runs alongside the Diploma, third year students get the chance to run an entire section of the college for a week. I was in charge of food ordering for the meat, poultry and fish sections and making sure the orders arrived correctly and on time to each area within the college.
October 14, 2006There's Only One Way To Skin An EelHere is a video clip on preparing live eels. Eight and a half minutes of a demonstration in my college butchery department of how to stun and skin an eel, prior to filleting and portioning. Definitely not viewing for the squeamish.
October 13, 2006Enough To Make You SquirmToday in college we had a delivery of six live eels for a butchery demonstration. Where I live in the East End of London there is a tradition of eating jellied eels with pie and mash - Fred Cooke's eel and pie shop is in my local Broadway Market. During today's live demonstration, our chief butchery lecturer showed the class how to prepare eels, from stunning to skinning, filleting and portioning.
October 21, 2006Holy Cow!On Thursday our chef lecturer in the butchery ordered a hind quarter of beef - a very large and expensive piece of meat. Here is a video clip showing the initial part of the butchery process - removal of the shin, separation of the flank from the "round" and extraction of the fillet from the sirloin.
October 02, 2006Vegetarians Should Look Away Now...I spent last week in butchery, in charge of the meat section. I really enjoy the butchery because it shows a completely different side to food preparation. It opens your eyes to exactly how much effort goes into food preparation and precisely where individual portions come from. This week I'm in charge of the fish section, where I fillet salmon, "shuck" oysters and "feed" mussels.
September 14, 2006Back To CollegeIt's back to college for me, to start the final year of my Professional Chef Diploma NVQ at Westminster Kingsway. Now I get to wear the white neckerchief associated with third-year students and I'll wear it with pride.