Bournemouth & Poole College and University College Birmingham have been granted their Centre of Excellence status for the high standard of training delivery across their bakery and patisserie courses, and their commitment to ensure young pastry chefs gain the necessary skills to enter the industry.
Annette Allmark, director of strategic policy at People 1st, said: “We know that there are some fantastic colleges and providers out there delivering education in patisserie and confectionery to the next generation of professionals and it is vital that we recognise this in order to raise professional standards across this vibrant and exciting culinary discipline.
“Employers have found it increasingly difficult to employ patisserie and confectionary chefs and the Centres of Excellence will promote the excellent routes into this profession and develop highly skilled work ready employees to fulfil employers’ recruitment needs.”
The colleges can use their new Centres of Excellence status to demonstrate to employers that they have the facilities to help meet their business needs through clear development pathways and direct links that they have to the industry.
Great British Bake Off
Sophie Roberts-Brown, operations director of the Hospitality Guild, added: “The aim of the Guild is to improve professional development across the industry and recognising excellence in education is a major part of that.
“We believe passionately that it is vital that students, parents and employers know where an education can be found which will exceed their expectations and this will lead to motivated, excellent staff in years to come.”
This announcement comes at a time when the nation’s obsession with baking is at an all-time high. Partly driven by the popularity of hit TV show Great British Bake Off (GBBO), colleges are reporting an upturn in the number of students enrolling on baking and pastry courses.
Student numbers on University College Birmingham's (UCB) bakery and patisserie courses have grown by more than 60 per cent since the first series of GBBO aired in 2010. Last year, enrolment numbers passed 100 for the first time.
Gary Hunter, head of culinary arts and hospitality, food and beverage service at Westminster Kingsway College, said he had also seen 'a significant increase' in student numbers on all pastry courses offered at the London college over the last three years with 200 people studying to be pastry chefs this year and agreed that Great British Bake Off was helping.
“I think that home bakery had been a largely forgotten past-time until the programme established itself,” said Hunter. “Now people are realising that perhaps they can make a career out of being a pastry chef, baker or even opening their own small business in this area.
"I also think that chefs such as James Martin, Richard Bertinet, Raymond Blanc and Will Torrent are successfully championing the cause for pastry chefs too. Many of our Professional Chef Diploma students are inspired to seriously consider becoming pastry chefs as a career option when they specialise in their final year with us."
Martin Chiffers, president of the UK Pastry Team, agrees that the increased interest in his profession is a positive thing, but he says more work is needed to promote careers in pastry and improve the link between training and jobs.
"The pastry industry is definitely growing in the UK. Pastry chefs are now becoming more famous, before it was all about the head chef, but we are still far behind countries like Japan who put a lot of effort into their pastry industry and there needs to be a lot more focus on building links with colleges and promoting pastry as a career," he said.