4 minutes Student Chef Challenge

Meet The Lecturer – Jake Piper

This week we touched based with Jake Piper, Culinary Lecturer at Cambridge Regional College, to see how his team are preparing for the final and what competitions mean to him.

Jake Piper – Lecturer

Cambridge Regional College

How are you feeling about making the grand final?

“The 2022 Country Range Student Chef final is the college’s first final since the decision was made to really go after the competitions two years ago, so we’re ecstatic. If they win or not, the students will have a fantastic time and it is the ultimate boost for their confidence.”

What are the benefits of the Country Range Student Chef Challenge?

“Competitions are all about challenging the students to push themselves. There is extra work so they have to be motivated and driven. The curriculum will always teach students the key skills and techniques but it may not have been a huge detail. Competitions like the Country Range Student Chef Challenge enable students to go into more depth, widen their knowledge, learn new techniques and take real ownership.”

What’s your background in the business?

“I worked across the Ramsey Restaurant Holding Group in Bread Street Kitchen, Limehouse, The Savoy and Heddon Street before moving to Cambridge to work in a selection of hotels.”

How did you get into your current role?

“I first learnt my trade at Thurrock Tech before it became South Essex College and I always really enjoyed my time there. I remember speaking to a chef friend who said he was getting out of the game and I started thinking what will I do when I get older. Do I want to be cooking in a kitchen when I am 65? Whilst I was still only 26, I started to think that teaching may be an option in the future so I took a teacher training course at CRC, thinking it would be useful in 20-30 years. On finishing the course, I was offered a job at the college and I haven’t really looked back.”

How have you found the shift?

“I have been running the course for two years now and I love it. I was at a stage in my life where I needed some work life balance and the job has definitely provided that. It’s a big topic in the industry with awareness around the burnt chef project growing but for me it was about growing something in my personal life, which I was finding a struggle while working in a fast-paced kitchen.”

Five Tips to succeed in competitions:

College Buy-In – we don’t have huge resources like some so we make the most of what we have with everyone chipping in to help the teams prepare. We have English teachers helping us with the applications and other staff members and departments assisting, whether it’s with logistics or something else. It’s a team effort all round which helps build a college spirit.
Play to your strengths – some students are stronger in some areas than others so it really is about playing to strengths. Someone may be better at communicating or planning, others more at the practical jobs. Put your team together so you have a good selection of skills.
Resilience – the last couple of years has been tough for them so this competition is the real pick up and boost they have been working towards. They have needed resilience to get through these last two years of college and they need it even more in competitions and once they move into professional kitchens.
Organisation is so important but adaptability is also vital. Once our team had made the final, we spent a lot of time on the organisation side of things but also made sure we moved them around and made them as uncomfortable as possible in their practising.