Banbury and Bicester College gets Michelin starred chef on board

Activate Learning, who run the college have announced a new partnership with world-famous Michelin star chef Heston Blumenthal to redesign the content of their hospitality and catering courses.

Heston, whose restaurant The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, is one of only five restaurants in the UK to have three Michelin stars, is working with Activate Learning to redesign the courses so learners are equipped to meet the demands of modern kitchens.

Sally Dicketts CBE and Heston Blumenthal

Sally Dicketts CBE and Heston Blumenthal

From September, new students at Activate Learning’s campuses, including Banbury and Bicester College, will be the first cohorts of learners to experience the new Heston-inspired curriculum and course content.

Both The Fat Duck Group and Activate Learning are hopeful that this partnership will increase the number of learners wishing to join hospitality and catering courses at the participating colleges.

The newly designed curriculum will build on the cooking techniques made famous by Heston, and will see learners taking a more experimental and scientific approach in order to develop their curiosity and promote research into all methods of food production.

Sally Dicketts CBE, chief executive of Activate Learning, said the new partnership with The Fat Duck Group would be enormously exciting and would help support what Activate Learning is trying to achieve with its award-winning learning philosophy.

Heston Blumenthal

Heston Blumenthal

She added: “Our Learning Philosophy is about using positive emotional responses to motivate learners and inspire them to go on and succeed in their chosen pathways.

“Our students will be stretched and encouraged to practise and practise and be inspired by working with a Chef like Heston Blumenthal, who has seen all the accolades and success anyone starting out in the industry would want to achieve.

"He will be a constant reminder to those learners coming onto our catering programmes from September of what they can accomplish within the industry and spur them on to emulate that success.

“Learning from inside the kitchen of arguably one of the best chefs in the world will be enormously motivating and rewarding and I’m excited for the learners that will get the opportunity to experience this new partnership with us at Activate Learning.

Heston Blumenthal meets the chefs of tomorrow

Heston Blumenthal meets the chefs of tomorrow

“Heston revolutionised the culinary world with his application of science to gastronomy and I believe his involvement with us at Activate Learning, will be equally revolutionary for the way catering is delivered within further education.”

Heston Blumenthal said he was very pleased and excited by the partnership with Activate Learning.

"I am very excited about the team and I getting involved in designing and creating this brand-new curriculum with Activate Learning.

"My journey through the culinary industry has been led by a strong sense of curiosity and a desire to learn. I am a strong believer that teaching must inspire curiosity in its students and it works best when things are taught not straight out of books and on whiteboards but in practical and fun ways.

"My hope is that in the process of building this course we will set a new template for others to follow that finds exciting and different methods to teach and also bring into the education systems many of the principals that we employ at the Fat Duck and in all my businesses.

"Not only will this course give strong technical skills but our students will learn the importance of emotion, teamwork, storytelling, creativity and imagination.

"Many of the cornerstones of my cooking are based in scientific principals and my desire is that by taking this course students will get a glimpse into the smaller world that makes us all human.

"It is when we look at the things we can’t see, like our emotions especially nostalgia that food can take us on incredible flights of memory allowing chefs to truly move people with their cooking.

"I also believe that learning should be fun and non-judgemental. We must all be given the opportunity to try something and get it wrong. My experience has taught me that it is usually in these moments of perceived failure that I have made a leap forward!

"There are so many discoveries still to be made and I want this course to inspire its students to question everything like I did and make breakthroughs of their own.

"The kitchen is a great big playground for scientific and personal discovery and I want our graduates to leave feeling like I do when I work, like a kid in a sweet shop, and I believe the catering industry will be better for it."

Students registering at one of our forthcoming open days (https://www.activatelearning.ac.uk/events) can expect to experience Heston’s Fat Duck Group vision being filtered through their college course as early as September 2019.

Bernard Grenville-Jones, group executive director for innovation and development at Activate Learning, said this new partnership would result in an offering to students unlike anything else found at other FE colleges in the UK.

He added: “The hospitality and catering sector is crying out for new talent and this exciting partnership reflects the desire of the industry to work with education to close the skills gap and create a pipeline of talent with real-world experience.

“By joining a career pathway with Activate Learning, learners will be given significant exposure to the industry and have the attributes instilled in them that businesses want from employees.

“So alongside the learning aspects of this partnership our students will also gain the chance to undertake their work experience alongside top chefs at The Fat Duck Group’s headquarters in Bray as well as placements in many other significant employer-partners across the Thames Valley region.

“This new offering from Activate Learning, working with an innovator of Heston Blumenthal’s calibre, is truly unique and we believe the young people that will come onto this hospitality program from September will be given grounding and skills to go on and become Michelin starred chefs and entrepreneurs one day.”