Crawley College students on a one-of-a-kind training course cooked for the Prime Minister and some very special guests earlier this week (Thursday 31 January).
They were invited to cater for more than 150 people, including around 70 children, attending a Chinese New Year reception hosted by the Rt Hon Theresa May at 10 Downing Street.
Three chefs, currently studying a one-year diploma in Chinese culinary arts through Crawley College which is part of the Chichester College Group, and a Crawley College apprentice commis chef whipped up eight different types of canapés inspired by the Tianjin region of China – including steamed vegetable dumplings and beef brunoise.
They were supported by chef lecturers from the college and master chefs from the Tianjin No2 School of Commerce, who have inspired and led the development of the unique qualification.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The UK is home to a vibrant British Chinese population and the Chinese New Year celebrations give us the opportunity to celebrate the outstanding contributions of this community to our country.
“I was delighted to meet so many children and young people from the UK’s Chinese community, including students from Crawley College who prepared the food for today’s event.
“My best wishes to everyone around the world celebrating Chinese New Year as we mark not only the Year of the Pig, but the continued growing relationship between Britain and China.”
Shelagh Legrave OBE, Chief Executive of the Chichester College Group, added: “We were delighted to receive an invitation from 10 Downing Street to cater for such a fantastic event.
“It has been an amazing opportunity for our Chinese Culinary Arts students to put their learning into practice at the highest level.
“This is an innovative new course, which combines online learning and tuition direct from China, with practical workshops and assessments delivered here at Crawley.”
The course, the first of its kind in the UK, was designed to meet the growing demand and shortage of qualified Chinese culinary arts chefs in Britain. Students on the programme come from all over the country, with the majority currently working in the hospitality industry. The blended learning model enables them to work and learn side-by-side as they develop authentic Chinese culinary skills.
Tracey Connors, who works for Leicester City Football Club, was one of the Chinese Culinary Arts students who helped to cater for the Downing Street event – travelling down from Leicester for the occasion.
She said: “It has been fantastic to be involved in catering for the event at Downing Street and working with the master chefs from China. It has been high pressure but I’m learning a lot and that’s what I signed on to do.
“At Leicester, we’re hoping to introduce healthy new cuisine into the academy house for our football scholars.
“Everyone likes a good takeaway, but the boys have to eat really healthy and this will help us to introduce a healthy style of Chinese food to their diet.
“We’re already trying the recipes and adapting them to suit our boys’ different dietary requirements.”
The diploma is backed by the Tianjin No2 School of Commerce and Tianjin Food Group through an alliance between the Chichester College Group and led by Coventry-based PAM Education.
Russell Grocott, PAM Education founder and director, added: “Our aim has always been to create educational programmes where students, businesses and learning providers can succeed by working together."
“This event proves just how successful collaboration of this kind can be.”
For more information about the course, please visit the Chinese Culinary Arts course page.