Students get a taste of the big time

Talented Perth College UHI chefs of the future showcased their skills as they served up a ‘Celebration of Skills’ dinner to invited VIPs and industry heads.

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Perth College UHI Food Studies and Hospitality students involved in the ‘Celebration of Skills’ showcase dinner

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

More than 75 Food Studies and Hospitality students were involved, mentored by industry experts in advanced skills such as butchery and fish filleting skills, chocolate work, event organisation, cocktail making and drinks service. These included TV's Crème de la Crème winner and patisserie expert Helen Vass and food writer and blogger Sumayya Usmani.

Perth College UHI Sector Manager for Food Studies and Hospitality, Ian Gibb, explained that the unique skills week and the showcase dinner – now in their third year – had been geared to the development of students’ ability and confidence, promoting the industry and training.

“Throughout the week the students took their training to a new level, by attending specialist workshops and then using those skills and their course work to prepare, cook, present and serve at the showcase dinner,” he explained. “They were learning what the world of work will be like at the hands of the best in the business and seeing that there is nothing to fear from skills such as chocolate work.

“Once they have learned the techniques, their only limitation is their own imagination and ambition.”

The five-course dinner, described by John Swinney as ‘“exquisite”, was served to an impressed guest list including those representing industry, chefs, education, local authority, sponsors and prospective students.

Sodexo’s partnership with the department is now in its seventh year and Mr Gibb described this annual project as a “new tier” in the support relationship: “Perth College UHI has benefitted greatly from the support of industry leaders Sodexo. 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 Perth College UHI pull this week together - the only college in Scotland to offer students this type of training experience.”

Mike Young, Contract Director Education 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 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 and of the outstanding showcase dinner they delivered,” added Mr Young. “There is a shortage of talented people coming into the hospitality sector but this event helps make college students more industry-ready and gives everyone encouragement that the future is in good hands if we continue to work together in partnership.”

Executive Chef David Ward described the showcase dinner served at the end of his skills training week with the students as “exceptional”.

“The students engaged at every stage of the week and exceeded my expectations in what they delivered at the VIP dinner. The whole experience gave them a taste of what life in the industry can be like and they all embraced the opportunity to learn and contribute to a fantastic team effort.

“We started the week with a group of students in a classroom and ended it with a team of potential chefs.”