Since it began in March, the Coronavirus lockdown has provided an opportunity for students of Westminster Kingsway College’s renowned School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts to put down their utensils and engage with renowned chefs.
The college – home to London’s leading culinary school – has hosted four online ‘lockdown’ question and answer Masterclasses for students so far, with chefs Ben Murphy, Freddie Forster, Selin Kiazim and Andrew Wong – all of whom are former students of the college. The Masterclasses gave students a unique opportunity to hear the alumni talk about their careers so far and what they have learned along the way, as well as their top tips for success.
The first Masterclass was on 1 April with Ben Murphy, head chef at Launceston Place restaurant in London’s Kensington, who gave a ‘warts and all’ talk about his career. Ben graduated from our Professional Chef Diploma course in 2010 aged just 19 and went on to work in France and at the five-star Berkeley Hotel, Knightsbridge. He said: “The college is the foundation of everything that I learned, from holding a knife to making a base for a sauce.
“But it wasn’t just the cooking. I learned how to be more patient, how to respect my elders and those who know more than me.” He went on to talk about those that influenced his career including mentor Norman Fu and his tutors at WestKing, whose advice and feedback he still seeks. Career highlights for Ben include being driven by Pierre Koffmann to the south of France to work in a 3 Michelin starred restaurant. “It was tough, but I learned a lot and eventually I think I earned their respect,” he said. Providing inspiration to the next generation of culinary and hospitality professionals, Ben told them: “You get out what you put in. The harder you work, the more you get. Live your best life, be happy and have no regrets.”
The next chef to share their expertise and experience with students was Saturday Kitchen regular and former Head Chef at le Pont de la Tour restaurant in London, Freddie Forster, on 8 April. Describing his decision to stay at the college and complete his final year as “the best decision I ever made,” Freddie graduated from the three-year Professional Chef Diploma course in 1990 and went on to work for Raymond Blanc in a career that has taken him all over the world. Freddie’s Masterclass covered everything from his favourite dishes to cook and eat, to staying positive and setting goals. Freddie provided a unique insight into the impact of the pandemic and how he believes it will affect the service industry. He discussed the need for restaurants to be more vigilant on spending money and how hygiene practices will change. You can watch it here:
Our third culinary Masterclass was on 23 April, with Selin Kiazim, who graduated from the college in 2008. Students logged in to hear her talk about her time at WestKing and how competing in culinary competitions helped shape her future. One of these competitions resulted in her winning a five-week trip to New Zealand where she met world famous chef Peter Gordon. She went on to work for him and eventually became head chef at the Kopapa restaurant. Trying to establish herself in her own right, she then ran several pop ups across the UK and it was only after a career-changing review from Giles Coren in The Times that she gained confidence in her Turkish Cypriot cuisine and opened her restaurant Oklava in 2015. Selin also competed on The Great British Menu in 2017 and her dessert was selected for the final banquet.
Students questioned Selin on being a female in a male-dominated industry. She talked about the harsh reputation that working in kitchens has and how working for Peter Gordon taught her that nurturing her staff is important. “The way that I treat people and the way I run my kitchen is very much in line with him [Peter Gordon],” she said. Watch Selin in action:
Andrew Wong – the host of our fourth Masterclass – grew up in a culinary family. His parents were restaurateurs, but the young Andrew was much more interested in studying to go to university than helping out in the kitchen – indeed he deliberately threw himself into his studies so he wouldn’t have to work in his mum and dad’s traditional Chinese restaurant. But people, and circumstances, change and after leaving university and training to be a chef at Westminster Kingsway College, Andrew is a highly accomplished chef with a Michelin Star for his restaurant A. Wong. Watch his Masterclass here:
Programme Manager for the Professional Chefs Diploma at Westminster Kingsway College, Paul Jervis, said: “We are a very well-connected college and these Masterclasses are a unique chance for students to hear first-hand from people who are not only their heroes in the industry, but who, like them, have studied here. We’ve been delighted to run four Masterclasses so far and we are really grateful to Ben, Freddie, Selin and Andrew for taking part.”
“We have a lot of other talented and successful culinary alumni who we keep in regular contact with. We’re pleased that so many of them want to help inspire the next generation of chefs and so we’re planning more Masterclasses, with more alumni, as the lockdown continues.
Find out more about our Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses here.