Bring back chefs' exams

05 October 2006
Bring back chefs' exams

I read with interest your book review last week on Advanced Practical Cookery (fourth edition) and especially the final comments relating to "an industrial platform with measurement" as a standard for the future (Caterer, 28 September, page 15).

As a former student of Thames Valley University who was lucky enough to have been taught by both David Foskett and John Campbell, and gain a degree in international culinary arts and management, I decided that my future lay in training young chefs for the industry, and I subsequently applied for a job at South Kent College. Having now worked there for two years and observed the training, standards and conditions in colleges, I find it appalling that City & Guilds have not, long ago, returned to the old examination system.

Having experienced the competence and knowledge of the students being issued with NVQ certificates and sent out to the industry, I am not surprised that there is a shortage of good chefs.

As a professional I have now reached the stage where I am no longer willing to be bullied by a system that is fundamentally wrong, and who, quite frankly, issues certificates to students who will fail in a real working kitchen. I can no longer accept having my professional integrity compromised by a Government whose only interest is the number of students who go though the doors of a college and complete a course, regardless of standards.

In the current system there is no differentiation between those students who have worked hard and those who have been spoon-fed. We need good chefs out there, and we need an examination system to prove the knowledge and skills of the individual student. This will allow future employers to judge the level of candidate they choose to employ, based on their needs. I applaud City & Guilds if the new recommendation for education is to return to the exam system. In my opinion, this needs to happen sooner rather than later, while there is still a skills base left to train the next generation.

I feel nothing but frustration and despair at a system that has allowed the skills base in colleges to drop as low as it has, and applaud those chefs such as John Campbell who still have a passion for their craft and an interest in educating young people properly.

Carol Hopkins
Sandwich, Kent

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