SCTC Culinary Students Study Abroad in England

SCTC students Robert Cannon, Dominic Green, Tina Sweatman, and Mary Holmes pictured with Chef Richard Axford from Kendal College

Four Southern Crescent Technical College (SCTC) students recently participated in the culinary trip of a lifetime as exchange students at the Lakes Hotel School at Kendal College in Cumbria, United Kingdom. During their month-long stay, SCTC students Robert Cannon, Mary Holmes, Dominic Green, and Tina Sweatman were able to study and work under top chefs in various local eateries including a Michelin-rated restaurant as they learned to prepare authentic European cuisine.

Students embarked on this journey on May 18, 2017 and returned home on June 15, 2017. During the day, the students studied under Kendal College’s Chef Richard Axford and his team of culinary instructors where they worked alongside Kendal College students to prepare food for the two College restaurants, The Castle Dairy Restaurant and The Restaurant at Kendal College.

“We had a chance to work on both the serving side and the preparation side of the restaurant as well as the pastry and savory side of the kitchen. I was able to learn their unique techniques and philosophies about the food they prepared,” Dominic Green said.  “It was an amazing experience and so different from my job working in a quick-serve restaurant in an American kitchen.  My culinary skills were put to the test and it was a great learning experience.”

The Lakes Hotel School at Kendal College in Cumbria, United Kingdom has launched the career of hundreds of hospitality and catering professionals since its creation in 2004, with many of them going on to work in some of the finest hotels and restaurants, both nationally and internationally. The unrivalled facilities and dedicated teaching team allow for a learning environment that nurtures the talent of tomorrow. The kitchens, restaurant and café all operate on a commercial basis, giving students the kind of real-world experience that prepares them for work in this exciting and challenging environment. During their time at the Lakes Hotel School, students have the opportunity to work with top chefs and develop a real understanding of the value of Cumbrian food and Classical Cuisine.

The four SCTC students each received a $2,000 scholarship to offset the cost of the trip. The scholarship opportunity was provided by the Culinary Arts Advisory Committee and the Southern Crescent Technical College Foundation with funds raised from the SCTC Food and Wine Pairing Event held in April of this year under the leadership of SCTC Culinary Arts Program Coordinator Chef Patrick Boutier.

These students stayed at a bed and breakfast adjacent to Kendal College, which made for convenient access to their daily activities. SCTC Culinary Instructor Chef Barry Levey accompanied the students for the first portion of the trip. Chef Levey made a connection with a local restaurant owner where students were able to participate in an additional one-day internship under Chef Leon at The Moon on High Gate. Tina Sweatman stated, “Chef Leon shared with us the practical knowledge that goes along with owning a business and working in a kitchen and talked to us about the financial responsibilities of running a successful restaurant.  It was a great experience to be a part of and especially interesting to work with him because he knew all of his recipes by heart. ”

According to the students, they all felt that their training in the SCTC Culinary Arts program sufficiently prepared them for the tasks presented on the trip. They were able to quickly adapt their knowledge to the different styles and methods presented in the kitchen.  This overall experience gave them the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of European cuisines and cooking techniques. Robert Cannon said, “While we may use many of the same foods, we definitely noticed distinct differences in their cuisine. They used a large number of purees to accompany their meals, pickled and cured foods were incorporated in nearly every course, and, charcuterie is a staple in almost every restaurant. We loved the food, but as we neared the end of our trip, we were able to cook Southern comfort food for the group and they absolutely loved it!”

The educational experience abroad was not limited to the kitchen. Cannon continued, “The Lakes District and surrounding countryside are beautiful. We enjoyed walking around the city of Kendal, especially near the river. We grew to know several of the students and town’s people who helped us learn the history and many facets of British culture.” During their trip, students were able to travel on weekends, including an excursion to London to see popular tourist attractions such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and the London Bridge.

“Thanks to the remarkable hospitality and kindness demonstrated by the Kendal College culinary team, our students felt welcome, protected and any initial hint of fear or apprehension immediately disappeared. As a result, their study abroad experience became a wonderful journey of personal discovery and growth, forever transforming their perspective on future life and career,” Chef Boutier commented. “As an educator, I think Study Abroad Programs contribute tremendously to the enrichment of our educational system by not only exposing our students to different cultures, flavors and landscapes, but more importantly, by providing our students with the opportunity to develop and hone essential critical thinking skills. The same critical thinking skills will become so important as they grow into their careers and access management level positions.”

Chef Axford stated, “It’s been a pleasure to meet, nurture and have a lot of laughs with the fantastic students from Southern Crescent Technical College. Tina, Dominic, Robert and Mary are different in so many ways and their abilities must not be underestimated. To come to England and perform so well is a testament to the quality instruction at Southern Crescent Technical College. We are sad to see them go but I hope a lifetime memory has been achieved.”

Just before their return, Mary Holmes stated, “I realize that I should not be afraid of what’s outside of my comfort zone. This trip has allowed me to catch the travel bug, even if it’s just within the United States. I want to travel, experience different cultures, and add to my culinary repertoire.”