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Loughborough Bags Craft Guild Accreditation

Loughborough College’s hospitality lecturers and students have once again demonstrated their appetite and desire to be the best after becoming the first college to achieve the Craft Guild of Chefs Accreditation.

The College and University Accreditation scheme was launched in July 2020 by the Craft Guild of Chefs to inspire the next generation of chefs at grassroots level. Accreditation provides institutions with professional recognition and demonstrates that the college, courses and curriculum offered have industry credibility, as well as industry standard facilities and resources.

Loughborough College had to pass various stringent stages including a full day inspection to reach the required standards and receive the much sought-after accreditation. We spoke to Darren, one of the key players at Loughborough College, who has been central in the College’s previous competition successes and helped mastermind the recent award.

A huge congratulations on the accreditation, tell us why you put in for it and what it entailed?
Testing ourselves by trying to win awards and competitions is a big part of the learning ethos and the curriculum itself at Loughborough College. We aspire to be the best hospitality college with the best college restaurant, and we want our students to have similar hopes, beliefs and goals. From a team perspective, receiving this Craft Guild of Chef Accreditation is the pinnacle, especially as we’re the first college to have ever received it.

We kicked things off by submitting the paper round in August and after a nervous wait, we passed before moving onto the next stage, which was a full day visit and inspection. The Craft Guild judges and representatives arrived at 10am and only left at 9.45pm with checks on everything from classrooms, assignments, curriculum, teaching methods, kitchen standards and even service in our restaurant so it was a long, arduous and nervy day for the whole group of students, lecturers and staff involved. Thankfully, each and every person involved did us proud and we received our accreditation
in November.

What does it mean to everyone at Loughborough College?
It means absolutely everything. Awards, accreditations and competitions have played a huge role in building our reputation for hospitality excellence and ensuring it’s not just Loughborough’s sport that takes the plaudits and wins the trophies. We don’t have half the resources as some of the big catering colleges so it’s a huge credit to the foresight of our management, the hard work of our team and, of course, the talented students.

What’s next?
Well, it’s not actually the end, there are more awards that can be given with the accreditation so we need to continue to raise the bar as mystery visits will take place each year. Additional awards for a gold standard are given for categories like, outstanding competition involvement or restaurant standards. It sounds tough but these are the type of challenges we will thrive on as it provides us all with real focus to ensure standards never drop.

Considering the last 12 months, how have you managed and kept on teaching?
Like for everyone, 2020 was definitely challenging but when it hit last March, we made the decision to carry on and face the challenge head on. If chefs and hospitality businesses were having to adapt and be creative, then that’s exactly what we needed to do as educators. Furthermore, we knew we needed to teach our students to be the same as the skills you learn in a crisis can put you in good stead in the future. Lessons were moved to Microsoft Teams, teaching was adapted, we entered various virtual competitions and even organised our own Virtual Festival called ‘The World is Your Oyster’. This comprised of a series of virtual Q&As and live cook-offs and demonstrations from top names across the hospitality, catering and travel sectors. It was such a success that the festival even got a mention in passing from the Government.

What about the Radmoor Restaurant? Has that slowed down?
Not really. The restaurant has continued throughout, which has provided real life and problem-solving experience for the students. We adapted to offer takeaway options quickly during the year and we even switched to online ordering during the lockdown and in the lead up to Christmas. I think we ended up selling over 3,000 mince pies online and on the last day alone, we sold 88 four-course takeaway Christmas dinners. I honestly think if our students can make it through and learn from these experiences and challenges, there won’t be much else that will ever phase them in their working life.

How do you as a college look to attract new students?
The media coverage we get when we win competitions and awards plays a big part in our success in attracting new students to hospitality and catering courses but we’re always proactive in trying to reach new groups and demographics. We have actually recently signed a partnership with Harrison Catering to launch a Junior Chef Academy. This will be for 12-15-year-olds and will comprise of various cooking classes and courses. This type of collaboration is a great way of giving kids a taste of life in professional kitchens or a restaurant, driving sign-up to our courses and increasing positive word of mouth promotion about what we do.

What competitions have you missed the most?
Without doubt the Country Range Student Chef Challenge. It’s such an unbelievable, all-round experience and does so much for the students by providing focus and clearly testing key skills, while also highlighting the importance of teamwork. It’s also great fun for the students and as we’ve also had some success in the competition in the past, there is certainly the desire to be champions again.