The ovens were fired up and the drinks put on ice at West Nottinghamshire College’s training kitchens and restaurant, ready for a week of activity during the hospitality and catering team’s industry week.
The action-packed start to the new term saw students take part in skills-stretching competitions and challenges, welcoming guests from the sector and attending visits to prestige catering and hospitality establishments, to inspire students on their career pathways.
A Ready, Steady, Cook-style challenge was organised for Level 1 and 2 students. Their task was to create a main course and a dessert for two diners, considering nutrition, a £5 price limit and ingredients.
The students had three hours to prepare, cook and present their dishes to a panel of judges, along with putting together a time plan and menu card. Judges based their scores on students’ use of maths and English skills throughout the competition as well as the all-important taste test.
A lunchtime special was provided to Level 1 students as they enjoyed a visit to the Miller and Carter Sherwood Forest steakhouse. As well as enjoying food of from the lunch menu, students were able to speak with the manager on duty about the professional standards expected in the restaurant as well as the chain’s brand expectations from staff working in the business.
Dunstan Hall Hotel, spa and golf resort in Norwich was the luxurious port of call for Level 2 Food Services students as they visited former student Paul Piercy in his role as hospitality director.
Paul graduated from the Level 3 Hospitality Supervision course in 2009 and went on to work in the college’s Refined restaurant. He gave the students a tour of the hotel facilities and gave a cocktail making demonstration of the drinks the Dunstan Hall bar serves to guests. Students were able to hear more from the hotel’s management team and discover more about the wedding planning side of the business.
Guest chefs throughout the week included Matt Gabbitas from Pilgrim’s Food Masters, Mick Sindall, head chef at Derbyshire-based Stretton Manor Barn and Leigh Richards, food consultant at The Ingredients Consultancy. Each chef had a different challenge for the student groups to get involved in.
Mick, a former student at the college back in 1990, ran a masterclass based on a range of potato-based dishes, such as Del Monaco potatoes, boulangère potatoes, dauphinoise, fondants, Pont Neuf, and potato gnocchi.
Meanwhile, Leigh, also a former catering student, who went on to work as a chef at Hambleton Hall Hotel in Leicestershire, spoke to students about his work within food manufacturing and introduced them to a dish development challenge. Students were asked to pitch their own ready meal and create it. From a trolley of bespoke ingredients, using take-away pots, students produced dishes, taking into account nutrition, sodium intake and price.
Matt’s task for students was to compare and contrast examples of different frozen meals from different supermarkets, analysing price points, ingredients and what goes into constructing them.
Creative cocktail making was another in-house challenge for students. Those studying on the food and beverage services diploma were given just under three hours to research, prepare and create a cocktail or mocktail which would be featured on the Refined restaurant’s new menu. Students were given a range of garnishes, fruit, spirits and tonics to create their cocktails, keeping costs, ingredients and style at the heart of their designs.
To round-up the week’s activities, groups visited Thoresby Hall Hotel near Newark for an introduction to the hospitality teams, as they gear up once again to embark on ‘hotel takeover’. This is a week-long activity in which students undertake a range of roles within hospitality and catering, mentored by hotel staff, who give them a real-life insight into working at a prestigious venue.
Hospitality and apprenticeship co-ordinator Jo Wilson said: “It’s really important we work with employers to provide these experiences for students, to enhance their employability skills before entering the busy world of hospitality and catering.
“Industry week proved to be a very action-packed and enjoyable time which showed students just how much they are capable of when pushed to try something new. They were able to pose some very interesting and worthwhile questions to guests and employers.”