Six catering students from South Eastern Regional College (SERC) in Northern Ireland have been cooking up a storm after getting the chance to hone their skills with a trip to Tennessee.
The party travelled to Nashville on a two-week work experience and cultural visit, funded by the Turing Scheme, designed to hone their professional cookery skills.
Students Rory Watson, Ben Povey, Ellie Hamilton, Maisa Muir, Catrina Stanfield and Conor Burns are all undertaking Level 3 NVQ Professional Cookery, Patisserie and Confectionery courses at SERC.
The group spent their first week in the United States working at Dream Hotels in Nashville, before heading to Knoxville to work in the local community alongside students and staff at the University of Tennessee.
Lecturer Brian Magill, one of the SERC team who accompanied the students, said: “This was a fantastic opportunity for our students to immerse themselves in professional cookery in another country.
Building cultural awareness and personal confidence
“Besides learning about Appalachian cuisine through essential hands-on experience in local restaurants and resorts, the students had the chance to show off some of their homegrown repertoire during festivities organised for St Patrick’s Day celebrations and to enjoy a host of US cultural activities.”
Student Ellie Hamilton, from Bangor, said: “Learning about new foods and styles of cooking and how the line kitchen works – where the cook supervises a specific area of the kitchen and reports to the head chef – was very interesting. The trip has made me more culturally aware and more confident in my own skills and abilities.”
Conor Burns, from Bryansford, said: “It was an incredible experience, and I loved every minute of the visit. Everything in the States is so much bigger, from the food to the service levels, and everyone is so friendly.”
Brian was delighted that SERC was able to resume work placements abroad for students following the restrictions on international travel as a result of Covid-19.
“Experiences such as this visit to the United States, and the chance to get a flavour for the industry in another country, really widen the horizons for our students in terms of peer learning, progression and individual career aspirations,” he said.
“It really has shown them what they can be and what they are capable of. This one trip could reshape their future. We are delighted that we have been able to resume this valuable element of the learning experience at SERC.”
Ken Webb, SERC Principal and Chief Executive said: “Our aim is to improve the quality and relevance of education and training, providing opportunities for students to improve the personal, social and employability skills valued by employers.
“About a quarter of our students are from disadvantaged backgrounds with many never having travelled abroad. The Turing Scheme is invaluable in supporting SERC’s commitment to widening participation by providing a unique opportunity for those students that would otherwise be unable to avail of international travel or work/study experiences.”
The Tennessee trip was the first experience outside of Europe for all the participating students, who all deemed it very successful.
Find out more about FE/VET funding opportunities with the Turing Scheme