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Top Chefs Spill the Beans for VTCT Learners

While many hospitality businesses are in lockdown or offering take-away only, some of the most prestigious chefs in the region have taken time out to share their career stories and words of wisdom with professional cookery students from Truro and Penwith College.

Each week for the past five weeks, students have jumped online with some of Cornwall’s most prestigious chefs. David Sharland, Paul Tippett, Phillip Corrick, Paul Ainsworth and Rick Stein have all experienced big-city kitchens in hotels such as The Savoy, Dorchester and Berkley and have shared their stories, experiences, and advice with the students.

The chefs have all shared their journey into the industry, their formal training, and their informal training in the workplace under some of the world’s top chefs of their time. The students now understand how the industry has changed over the last 50 years and the wide-ranging opportunities beyond the traditional hotel and restaurant roles. There are opportunities for catering, food science, food technology, supply chain management and product development.

David Sharland from Flying Fish Seafood said: “Chefs now are intelligent businesspeople, leaders, motivators with a good eye for detail. They are used to working as a team to understand the customer journey and they know that guests experience of front of house is just as important as the food from the kitchen.”

Rick Stein, who set up his first restaurant in nearby Padstow in the 1970s, told the students: “People misunderstand chefs. They think catering is third rate, and underestimate what a skilled job it is and how creative you need to be.” 

No matter how they started out, all the chefs have said the same thing – ‘Working in hospitality isn’t just a job, it is a way of life.’

All the chefs predicted that post-pandemic, the industry will bounce back more improved than before. They told students that the ‘staycation’ will continue to be as popular as travel overseas now that people have been reminded of the beauty on their doorsteps.

Whilst all five have experienced working in London, they all reflected on Rick Stein’s statement: “Cornwall is a centre of excellence for both restaurants and produce and working with local suppliers is better both for the environment and our local economy.”

The Paul Ainsworth Academy at Truro and Penwith College is just one positive example of local business supporting local talent.


Top pieces of advice from the chefs

Paul Ainsworth – Talent will get you so far but hard work will get you the whole way. To get to the top you must believe in yourself, learn from others and accept constructive criticism but distance yourself from social media and other influences that bring you down. Follow people who inspire you to be your best self.

Rick Stein – Make sure you spend plenty of time eating to gain a love of good food and explore different tastes and flavours. The tastes and flavours are more important than fancy preparation and cooking skills.

David Sharland – In hospitality, you must be strong – show resilience and come back the next day no matter what has happened. That way you gain respect. Watch, listen and learn. Take experience from every situation.

Paul Tippett – It is all about standards. If you have ambitious standards other people will aspire to have the same standards. Aspire to be at the top of the game and your team will follow.

Phillip Corrick – You can conquer this industry with enthusiasm, support, and hard work – you do not need acres of qualifications or a university degree! Hospitality is not a job; it is a way of life.