Perth students get a taste of the big time

Food Studies and Hospitality students showcase their skills.

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Students and staff with Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney in the kitchens at Perth College UHI; Finishing touches; Food served up at the event.

Talented chefs of the future at Perth College UHI showcased their skills as they served up a Modern Taste of Scotland dinner to invited VIPs and industry heads.

The showcase dinner – for guests including Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney – marked the culmination of a unique Craft Skills Week mentored by renowned Chef Willie Pike MBE and sponsored by global food and beverage management services employer Sodexo.

All 100-plus Food Studies and Hospitality students at the college were involved, taking their training to a new level at the hands of industry experts in advanced skills such as sugar craft and chocolate work.

Sector Manager for Food Studies and Hospitality at the college, Ian Gibb, explained that the week – the first of its kind in Scotland – had been geared to the development of students’ skill and confidence, promoting the industry and training:

“Throughout the week the students were all attending specialist workshops and then using those skills and their course work to prepare, cook, present and serve at the showcase dinner. They were learning at the hands of the best in the business and seeing that there is nothing to fear from skills such as sugar work. Once they have learned the techniques, their only limitation is their own imagination.”

The eight course dinner – described by John Swinney MSP as a “triumphant combination of fantastic Scottish ingredients and skilled, imaginative cooking and awesome presentation” – was served to an impressed guest list including those representing industry, chefs, awarding bodies, education, local authority, sponsors and prospective students and parents.

Sodexo’s partnership with the department is now in its fifth year and Mr Gibb described this latest development as a “new tier” in the support relationship:

“Perth College UHI has benefitted greatly from the support of the industry leaders Sodexo and this unique training week and showcase dinner shows what can be achieved to help prepare the students for life in what is a very hard and demanding industry. We’re immensely grateful to Sodexo for helping pull this week together – another ‘first’ for the department.”

Jonathan Keitch, account director with Sodexo, who provide services for the hospitality and catering at Perth College UHI campus, said a huge part of their support was to help with curriculum development and provide learning opportunities and internships for the students:

“We help to shape the raw student material into the future leaders of the industry,” he said. “By building our partnership with the college we look at ways to enhance and add value to the student experience and this week has achieved that. I’m extremely proud of what they’ve achieved this week and of the outstanding showcase dinner they delivered. There is a shortage of talented people coming into the industry but this event gives everyone encouragement that the future should be in good hands if we continue to work together in partnership.”

Chef Willie Pike described the showcase dinner served at the end of his skills training week with the students as “outstanding”:

“It is my passion to motivate and excite these students about their chosen path, because I want them to make a contribution in improving the standards in Scotland with fabulous food, fabulous cooking and fabulous service. It is so rewarding to see the standard they achieved by the end of the week and it warms my heart to witness the skills, enthusiasm and commitment displayed to prepare and deliver a dinner of this level to an audience of this importance.”