A world-beating College of Food should be established in London with a mission to transform culinary education and support the hospitality industry to recover from coronavirus and Brexit, according to a new report by Centre for London.
The proposed College of Food would bring existing courses at further education colleges across the city under a recognised brand and a new centre of excellence backed by world-class teaching standards. .The new college would be able to teach a wider, more up to date range of skills and boost the standing and appeal of London’s culinary education offer to Londoners, as well as national and international students.
The report illustrates why a new approach to culinary education is needed now, drawing a contrast between the global reputation of London’s great art, design and fashion schools, and the relatively low standing of its catering colleges.
It argues that a College of Food would:
- Nurture local talent into professional cooking to reverse falling course take-up and give chefs the skills that restaurants and caterers need.
- Promote inclusivity in a sector where women and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Londoners struggle to progress.
- Attract investment to repair the longstanding underfunding of culinary education, and establish the UK as a centre for food innovation.
- Drive sustainability by improving chefs’ understanding of the issues and solutions to the environmental costs of food and diet.
- Raise employment standards to improve workforce attrition rates, by training a new generation of chefs and cooks on how to tackle workplace discrimination and poor wellbeing.
Hospitality businesses have suffered a body blow during the pandemic: as many as three quarters of jobs have been furloughed across London and the UK. But Centre for London believes that the College of Food could boost recovery. To attract customers back, food businesses will need to offer high quality and value for money through a skilled, local workforce.
The College would also help to mitigate the impact of Brexit on the hospitality sector, which has struggle to find homegrown talent in the past: in 2019, 85 per cent of London’s chefs were born abroad, and 25 per cent came from the EU.
The business case put forward by the Centre proposes the College of Food should:
- Be established as a further education institution to minimise set up time and costs;
- Provide a range of entry-level and advanced courses to increase learner numbers;
- Operate on a ‘hub and spoke’ or centre and satellite model to offer the prestige of world class centre of excellence alongside colleges across the city offering local courses.
It recommends that organisations with an interest in delivering the College of Food should form a group to complete preparatory work on branding and identity, fundraising, course structure and qualification award.
Ben Rogers, Founding Director at Centre for London, said:
“The hospitality industry is on its knees and there are very difficult times ahead. But coronavirus will dent, not overturn the success of London’s creative and dynamic food scene.
“London has long struggled to grow its homegrown chef talent – and restaurants, caterers, artisan and street food businesses will need skilled staff to build back better.
“We need to invest in our city’s recovery by establishing a College of Food – creating local learning and job opportunities and putting London on the map as a global centre for food education.”
Kate Nicholls OBE, Chief Executive at UK Hospitality, said:
“Hospitality is a vital economic and social pillar in the UK. Our sector provides job opportunities, training and investment in every region. We are the focal points of communities and home to some of the most exciting companies in the country. And yet, even in pre-pandemic times, we have sometimes struggled to attract talent or educate people as to the benefits we can offer.
“Revitalising education and providing pathways into the sector, through a dedicated College of Food, could be exactly the impetus that the sector, and young workers looking for exciting opportunities, needs.
“As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, the need for a strong and motivated hospitality sector is going to be more important than ever. Establishing a College of Food in London would help cement the city’s reputation as a world leader in both hospitality and education, and could be a great way of kickstarting the recovery of hospitality and the entire economy.”
James Tumbridge, Deputy Chairman of the Markets Committee at the City of London Corporation, said:
“We welcome the Centre for London report recommending a London College of Food. Raising the profile of hospitality as part of London’s social and economic fabric is vital as the industry looks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The proposal sits perfectly alongside the City Corporation’s plan for a new food school to be delivered as part of the co-located wholesale food market in Dagenham Dock.
“Our vision includes modern food school facilities providing an exciting opportunity to foster talent through apprenticeships and world class food courses, ensuring our traders have the skills required to continue to be world class butchers, fishmongers, and fruiterers.”
Gary Hunter, Deputy Executive Principal of Westminster Kingsway College, said:
“The College of Food report clearly sets out the challenges and way forward for London to become a global leader for food, culinary arts and hospitality.”
Iqbal Wahhab, Founder of The Cinnamon Club and Roast, said:
“The timing could not be better for London to have a College of Food. The hospitality sector needs to become a much more attractive career choice and not an “if all else fails” option or a stepping stone to something else.
“We need to build a new generation of people who aspire to be part of the magic of what we aim to do, and we need to have teams that reflect the city we serve. This is a much needed shot in the arm for us to be able to build back better. There is plenty of talent on our doorsteps which we need to bring inside and equip with the skills to make our sector great again.”
Notes to Editors
- Recipe for change: The case for a London College of Food is supported by Funders The Mark Leonard Trust, The Stanley Foundation and The Storey Charitable Trust, Major Sponsor City of London Corporation and Supporting Sponsors Claridge’s and Soho House & Co.
- International and EU workforce: Bosetti N., Washington-Ihieme M. (2019). Kitchen Talent: Training and retaining the chefs of the future. Centre for London; KPMG (2017). Labour migration in the hospitality sector: A KPMG report for the British Hospitality Association. Retrieved from: https://www.bha.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/BHA-EU-migration-final-report170518-public-vSTC.pdf