Much has been said and written about our catering colleges, be it good, bad or indifferent.
For what it’s worth, here’s my view based on my experiences.
At 16 years old, and with ok ish grades from school, I enrolled on a catering course at Loughborough College, I had digs which I paid for, I lived in Loughborough for the week and went home Friday evening returning on a Sunday night, I had two jobs whilst at college, and a weekend job back at home, no one made me, I wanted it.
I loved the life, a fantastic experience, no one made me, I wanted it, I have a huge amount to thank Loughborough College for, they gave me the basics I needed to go on in my colourful chef career, I thought at 18 when I left that I was Marco !
I quickly learnt I wasn’t, I’d learned that college gave me the basic skills, but, industry life was a whole different ball game,
So, What did I do? Give in? Spit out my dummy because I already believed that I’d been to college therefore I’m already a chef?!!! No! I got on with it, learning all over again really, soaking everything in, Everything that the industry, the people, the world threw at me, sometimes literally, the good, the bad and the down right insane, no one made me, I wanted it
I’m not going to say that it was “ Rock and Roll” far far from it! I’m not ashamed to say I found life hard in those days, long days, tough pressure, bollockings for messing up, yelled at because my MEP wasn’t up to standard, scrubbing out fridges, cleaning out fryers and grease traps, sent home for not shaving, hauled into chefs office because my whites weren’t ironed, pushed to the absolute limit, but no one made me, I wanted it, I wanted to be as good as I could be, it was down to me, and me only.
So forward 30 odd years later, I’ve been reasonably successful, no one made me, I wanted it.
I was lucky recently to be invited back to Loughborough College, to cook with the students, a Guest chef evening, several things stood out for me,
The relationship between lecturers and student, fun and enjoyable, but when asked to do, the students did, no dummy spitting, no back chat, no one made them, they just did,
Another thing was the willingness to learn, each one of them asking questions, why? How? Can you? Could you?
The pride they take in their appearance, whites clean, hats on, hair tied back, some will say, rightly so, and I agree, but no one made them, they just did,
But above all, they all wanted to be there, to learn, the willingness, the eagerness, keenness, bright and proud
Most of you will know that I do my other stuff with my local college up here in Cumbria, work experience, mentoring Blah Blah Blah
I don’t mind doing a three hour round trip to mentor a person, if there’s a willingness to learn and, they themselves want to be there, no one made them, they do, and, so do I, I’ll give my time for that, I’ll take that, no one made me, I’ll just do it.
I’ll take a person who has never had any cooking experience, other than chicken nuggets, and help them, take them on as an apprentice, because there’s a willingness from them to learn, to do well, because no one makes them, they want to, a person who is to take a year out, to then come back for an evening, not knowing the menu and completely smash service, like they have never been away, I’ll take that, because there’s a willingness, to do the best they can, to put out the best possible food they can, to learn, listen, no one made them, they wanted to
So I can hear you all saying,
“what is he talking about? What’s his point? You are living in a fantasy world chef, times have changed”
I’ve been extremely critical of colleges in past years, putting the blame solely on them, because in my opinion, it wasn’t like that when I was there, I wanted to be there, i wanted to learn, I wanted to be the best, I wanted to be Marco, so obviously something has changed, they’re not as good as they were!
So my point is this,
My experience is, that you can only teach someone if there’s a willingness to learn, you cannot make them have pride, passion and keenness, you can inspire and try to ignite enthusiasm, but there has to be something there initially, you cannot make them, they have to want to,
I don’t believe that the colleges are the problem, I believe that the problem is the individual, you either want to, or you don’t.
The problem is the attitude of the individual