That’s according to a new report by the think tank Centre for London, which believes existing courses at further education colleges across the city should come under a recognised brand creating 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, Centre for London says.
The report illustrates why a new approach to culinary education is needed now, drawing a contrast between the global reputation of London’s 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; and attract investment to repair the longstanding underfunding of culinary education, and establish the UK as a centre for food innovation.
The College of Food would also help to mitigate the impact of Brexit on the hospitality sector, which has struggle to find home-grown talent in the past. In 2019, 85% of London’s chefs were born abroad, and 25% came from the EU.
Centre for London envisages the College of Food working on a ‘hub and spoke’ or centre and satellite model.
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.
“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,” says Centre for London founding director Ben Rogers.
“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.”
“Hospitality is a vital economic and social pillar in the UK. Our sector provides job opportunities, training and investment in every region,” says UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls.
"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."