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Chefs’ Forum Conference Goes Virtual

In a change to the billed CPD Conference 2021 to be broadcast live from West London College, The Chefs’ Forum had to quickly pivot to take the event completely online as lockdown measures were once again implemented countrywide. The event, aimed primarily at college lecturers and educators, took place last week on 14 and 15 January with the second half of the event taking place this week, on Thursday 21 and Friday 22 January.

Seventeen colleges and ninety-five delegates registered to take part in the conference. Delegates were treated to an action-packed, two-day event with six hours of compelling and innovative masterclasses and demonstrations, including a session with Hayden Groves and Neil Rippington, analysing cookery from industry and educational perspectives, honey tasting with Bermondsey Street Bees, and a live venison butchery from the Curtis Pitts larder.

Still to come, Koppert Cress will also be giving a ‘Cressperience’ of their microgreens and microherbs, and Andrew Emmott will talk about the provenance of macadamia nuts from Milawi, and the Neno Macadamia Trust he set up to support smallholder farmers.

Samples and goodies were sent out to the delegates, so they could try the demo recipes themselves. Catherine Farinha of The Chefs’ Forum said: “CPD is an unbelievably important focus and this is evident in the fantastic take-up of the event by ninety-five college lecturers across 17 catering Colleges in the UK and Ireland! Research indicates that learning new skills increases job satisfaction and the significance of CPD is that every piece of development enhances a chef’s CV and value. CPD can lead to new opportunities, support career progression and provide the confidence to take on more senior roles. This also applies to all other positions throughout hospitality. With this in mind, Neil and I put together a programme of events where industry leaders and high-quality artisan suppliers could discuss both business and development in a way that colleges can begin the development of innovative and highly relevant curriculum content. The programme, spread over two weeks, is providing a mix of interactive masterclasses, blended with sessions to explore the hottest topics impacting the success of students, as they enter the industry. It aims to provide the essential link between suppliers and producers with industry specialists and hospitality educators.”

Jamie Houghton, pastry sous chef to Benoit Blin at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons kicked off the proceedings last week with a fascinating sugar demonstration in which he recreated a replica ‘world-cup’ ribbon. This was streamed live from the sadly unoccupied kitchens of his iconic workplace in Oxfordshire.  Jamie showed the delegates a wonderful film from the ‘Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie’ final 2019, which was a noteworthy reminder of Jamie winning the prize for the best piece of sugar work in the entire competition.

Next was an insightful session featuring Masterchef 2020 finalist Philli Armitage-Mattin and industry icon, Chris Galvin, discussing the need to teach business acumen and appreciation to hospitality and catering students from grassroots. The conference was overwhelming in its support of developing students with the wider skills and knowledge needed to thrive and succeed in an exciting, but competitive and challenging industry, or to perhaps own their businesses one day.

The third session was a fabulous introspective into the career development story of Peter Avis, General Manager for Galvin at Windows.  Peter gave a fantastic insight into his journey, from pot washing to heading up the operation in an iconic Michelin-starred restaurant.

Delegates agreed that we need to do more to offer continual professional development to front-of-house professionals. This is exactly what The Chefs’ Forum plans to do going forward, including full-day events across a whole range of disciplines to meet the needs of front-of-house professionals, as well as the chefs of course! The Chefs’ Forum will also return to their regular visits to suppliers alongside study tours and butchery masterclasses, once restrictions are lifted.

Last Friday’s line-up consisted of a talk on sustainability by Deri Reed, Sustainable Restaurant Association’s Chef of the Year 2020. Deri described the crowd-funded restaurant opening of his wholly sustainable ’The Warren’ in Carmarthen, where he financed the opening by encouraging customers to forward-pay for meals and experiences.

The delegates also enjoyed a fantastic presentation on blended learning, delivered by educational expert and conference host, Neil. Neil divided delegates into virtual rooms to discuss the trials and tribulations of teaching students online, sharing best practice and their personal experiences.  

Headline Sponsor, International Culinary Studio, also presented a blended-learning solution via their virtual learner management system. The platform has been approved by City & Guilds in New Zealand, allowing students to submit work for assessment and manage their portfolios to achieve their qualifications. This presents a fantastic opportunity for UK providers to embrace this technology and develop a tailored blended learning programme to suit their bespoke delivery requirements.

Neil added: “The past week has shown us that we absolutely have the right people in place to develop something special for the future of students and the industry they are passionate to thrive in. There are great career opportunities for people entering the industry but the skills, knowledge and understanding needed for sustainable success requires more than the creation of aesthetically pleasing dishes presented on cool and trendy tableware. All of the aspects considered in this CPD conference, including high-quality sustainable supply, good business acumen, a great skills-set and a passion for the industry, provide a solid foundation for an exciting future. I want to say a huge thank you to all the guest speakers who have taken part so far and I am very much looking forward to another week of compelling, interactive world-class demos and masterclasses.”

We are planning further sessions to explore blended learning approaches and resources to enable educators to share and learn from their peers in other colleges as well as receive more in-depth tutorials from Neil, as required. Neil is an expert in the practice of virtual learning and is currently working with Harvard University, USA, to deliver a pioneering programme in Culinary Psychology.

Movenpick Dessert Chef of the Year, Biju Joshwa
Movenpick Dessert Chef of the Year, Biju Joshwa

Last week’s sessions were rounded-off with a sensational patisserie demonstration by Movenpick Dessert Chef of the Year, Biju Joshwa. The delegates were mesmerised by Biju’s talent as he created a Brio-Mac-Cookie, a brioche bun filled with gooey ganache loveliness and topped with a Nutcellars’ macadamia nut and milk chocolate cookie!

Denise Charles, Head of Curriculum for Service Industries at West London College, concluded: “We were very much looking forward to broadcasting The Chefs’ Forum’s CPD Conference from our college training kitchens to showcase our facility to other UK colleges.  Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions meant that we could no longer invite the guest speakers onto campus. All wasn’t lost as my team and I were able to join the conference via Zoom and it worked perfectly. We all benefited from excellent CPD sessions that were very interesting and engaging. This has shown me that I can fulfil my CPD obligations for the whole of my team in this format now and in the future. I think it’s great to see how many people can be linked-up from around the world on one call! Blended learning was of specific interest to me. As a college, we have been running digital pathway training over the past month, where teaching staff are shown various online delivery methods as part of the new normal in the way we deliver distance learning. As a result of Neil Rippington’s blended learning masterclass, I have learnt how to organise ‘breakout rooms’ on Zoom and am using them for my students in a lecture this week to enable them to do customer/server interaction role play in pairs! I have added my hours spent on the conference to my CPD log and have asked my staff to do the same.  We are very much looking forward to this week’s sessions and receiving our digital certificates from The Chefs’ Forum at the end of the conference to verify our Industry CPD hours for the awarding body.”

For more information on this or future CPD events from The Chefs’ Forum, please email catherine@redcherry.uk.com

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