South Devon College student Josh Bowles has set his sights on a culinary career after sampling the delights of French patisserie baking during a two-week Turing Scheme placement in Cannes.
Josh was one of 11 learners undertaking tourism and hospitality courses at the Torbay-based college who travelled to the glitzy town on the Cote d’Azur to broaden their knowledge and skills and gain valuable work experience.
Study time was spent at South Devon College’s partner organisation, Faculte Des Metiers Ecole Hoteliere De Cannes, an educational institution specialising in travel, tourism, hospitality and related trades. This was complemented by relevant work placements for all the students.
I feel like I came back a different person
Josh, who combines his college studies with a part-time job as a kitchen assistant at the Pig and Whistle pub in Totnes, was placed at local bakery Pâtisserie Chocolaterie Philippe Brito.
He admits to feeling quite apprehensive before the trip but soon began to enjoy the experience, ultimately believing that it has helped him in his ambitions to forge a career for himself in catering.
“I was extremely nervous and quite scared,” he said. “I had never travelled that far without family. So much that I did was brand new to me, that I felt I was not ready for, but it helped me to experience it.
“I learned a lot of new skills and different jobs. I have seen how the French do their patisserie within their culture, their standards and what they do differently.
“We visited new locations, famous ones! It’s great to see the impact that these restaurants actually have, and the architecture is so unique and it symbolises France.
“The more I got into it, the more comfortable I felt as I started to understand the systems in place. I felt like I belonged there more and more each day, less and less foreign.
“I felt out of my comfort zone. It was a very professional atmosphere, which I wasn’t used to, and the way they did everything was very different. I did become more comfortable, and I did my best to meet the high standards out there.
“I feel like I came back a different person because I experienced so much more than I have in the last 10 years all in one, two-week experience. I feel like I can do everything much more easily now in my own country.”
Enthusiasm and joy every step of the way
The students, and two accompanying staff members, also enjoyed several cultural excursions during their stay in the South of France, including evening meals at well-known Cannes restaurants, trips to Monaco and Île Sainte-Marguerite, an aquarium visit and seeing a number of local sights.
The island of Île Sainte-Marguerite was Josh’s highlight, as well as the local cuisine – including some French delicacies which Brits often regard as something of an acquired taste.
“I tried new foods like escargot and octopus,” he said. “I don’t know why everyone thinks it’s so bad! I tried different cheese and lots of dishes unique to France.”
Una O’Connor, Josh’s learning support assistant at South Devon College, said: “Josh started on his first year of catering feeling anxious and lacking in confidence and his ability to achieve. He progressed to year two of the catering programme though, and it was here that he started to believe in himself.
“Josh then decided to do the Level 2 patisserie course. Some amazing skills are learned to a very high standard on this course. Josh sometimes found tasks challenging but gave 100% and achieved.
“The icing on the cake was Josh taking part in the Turing Scheme trip. From doing his application to the celebration evening at the end Josh showed enthusiasm and joy every step of the way. He did a fantastic job in his work placement in Cannes. He has come back full of confidence and zest for his next chapter.”
Josh now plans to embark on a catering apprenticeship and has already displayed his newfound confidence back at South Devon College, including winning a signed book for being the most engaged student during a visit by a professional chef.
The catering and hospitality learners’ trip to Cannes was one of several from South Devon College funded by the Turing Scheme during the 2022 to 2023 academic year.
Fifty-six learners in total benefitted from placements, with A-Level scholars and engineering students visiting Sweden, Marine Academy students heading to Brittany and a Sports Science group to The Netherlands.
Find out more about FE/VET funding opportunities with the Turing Scheme