Whilst there are many ways to reform and strengthen culinary education in London, we believe that few can simultaneously meet London’s need for a high status but inclusive organisation in a way that is both cost effective and builds on the city’s existing providers. From the options outlined in section two, we recommend the following:
Mission: The College of Food should provide a range of entry-level and advanced courses
We propose that the College should combine basic and advanced course provision. There clearly needs to be a large increase in learner numbers and an increase in specialised and advance education – and this can only be achieved through offering a wide base of foundation courses, as well as more advanced ones. This model would allow learners to build up their skills over time – potentially over the course of a lifetime – and train for essential skills before returning for more specialised training, as they develop or skills need change.
London’s food scene is also highly diverse, and will therefore require cookery courses at both entry and advanced levels. Professional kitchens span from high end to casual dining, and to food trucks, catering and cafes. There are also many other types of preparation jobs which require knowledge of food as well as advanced technical skills, for example in food markets and artisanal food production. Whilst their needs will not be the same as an aspirant chef, some will overlap and it makes sense for these to be considered together.
Status: The College of Food should be a further education institution
In order to minimise set-up time and costs, we recommend that the network be developed within the FE framework. We believe that this is compatible with it developing a central centre of excellence and advanced education – thought the college should explore partnerships with higher education institutions when it comes to developing is research and innovation capacity.
Structure: The College of Food should adopt a centre and satellite model of operation
We recommend a centre and satellite or hub and spoke structure. This would ensure that courses are available across London and beyond, so making it easier for local learners to access training, while also providing a centre of excellence offering specialist and advanced training, research and innovation capacity, able to attract international students as well as research and development funding. The centre or hub would in effect be a new institution, with a fresh brand and course offer, but could be sponsored or developed by an existing institution.
For this hub and spoke model to work, the various learning providers who form part of the College of Food should be governed by a board. Because most of the courses and colleges that make up the various parts of the network form part of existing institutions, the board would play a relatively informal coordinating role, though in time some of the course and colleges involved might want to federate and become a single body.
Table 7 summarises our recommended options from the ones detailed above. As already set out, the criteria to select our recommendations were cost implications (both set up and ongoing), and the ability to generate significant status and inclusion, in order to attract talent and increase the diversity of recruits.
Plan for action
Create a set up group
As a next step, organisations with the potential to deliver radical change to food training in the capital should come together to form a group, with the purpose of setting up the College of Food. The group should include further education colleges and supporters (see below). The group leadership should be diverse in terms of background and business experience – and should include people with the ability to manage capital investment.
The group of sponsors will need to complete work in three main areas:
- Curriculum, branding and identity: detailed work showcasing how a strong brand and course offer can attract learners.
- Coalition building and course structure: approaching colleges to map out learner journeys through food, and set out the hub and spoke learning model. This will include agreeing which organisations will award qualifications, and at which stage.
- Development and fundraising: interested parties should develop a formal costed case for investment, and work to secure seed investment for the College.
The work to set up the college will need support, and while existing catering colleges might be able to contribute in-kind support, it will require early investment from the Mayor of London and/or the government, as well as, ideally, funds from trusts, foundations and social investors.
Once the work of the set up organisation is complete, colleges should enter agreements on course delivery and awarding powers. These should allow the College of Food to bid for funding from the Mayor of London and the Education and Skills Funding Agency, and from employers’ apprenticeship levy monies.
On top of this, the government and/or the Mayor of London should offer a specific funding package that contributes to set up costs and encourages colleges to participate in the College of Food course offer. Indeed, we are clear that in order to attract the best chefs into teaching, and to operate in high quality professional kitchens, the College will need a funding contribution from both the government and the Mayor of London. The National Colleges have set a precedent for this – though building on existing providers rather than creating a new institution from scratch would save on set up costs.
Longer term considerations
In the long term, the group should consider the potential benefits of moving from this hub and spoke model to a more structured federation of providers. Moving towards a more unified structure is a serious step to take, and colleges should consider whether the advantages would outweigh the disadvantages.