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The Corporation

Posted: 05/05/17

Celebrated local chefs inspire college students

Award-winning young chefs returned to the place where they learnt their trade to inspire the next generation of aspiring cooks.

Lewis and Craig (first and second right) and Rees (far left) pass on their skills to current students Eleanor Kiff, 17, and Tim Foster, 18, watched by chef tutor Mark Jones.

Lewis Kuciers and Craig Hadden temporarily hung up their chef whites at The Black Bull, Blidworth, where they head up the kitchen, to oversee a special evening of dining at West Nottinghamshire College’s Refined restaurant, where they qualified as professionals.

Accompanied by The Black Bull’s chef de partie Rees Whelpton, another former student, they worked with the college’s current crop of would-be chefs to serve-up a stunning eight-course tasting menu to 50 customers at the Derby Road campus’s flagship restaurant on Thursday 4 May.

It followed an invitation from tutor Mark Jones, who continues to mentor his former protégés, feeling this year’s students would learn much from the talented alumni.

Under their direction, students on the Level 3 Diploma in Professional Cookery created imaginative twists on some of Lewis and Craig’s signature dishes including asparagus rolled in hay ash, smoked cod roe and lovage; monkfish vindaloo evolved; and passionfruit Solero.  

Joint head chefs Lewis, 20, and Craig, 21, have already achieved much success in their relatively short careers since graduating from the same course in 2015.

Their cookery skills and culinary creativity earned the Black Bull two coveted AA Rosettes earlier this year – one of only two pubs in Nottinghamshire to hold the prestigious accolade – after their innovative and well-presented dishes impressed an anonymous inspector.

The college has since gone on to achieve a similar feat, with Refined awarded an AA College Restaurant Rosette in March this year for the high standard of its food, service and vocational training.

Ex-students Lewis, Craig and Rees, 19, were all trained in the kitchens of Refined; helping run its busy lunchtime and evening service alongside chef tutors and fellow catering and front-of-house students, who gain real-life industry experience.

Lewis, from Fiskerton, near Southwell, said: “The idea was to show students some of the things we do at The Black Bull and give them a chance to learn some different skills and techniques. Without the college, we wouldn’t be where we are now, so it’s nice to give something back.”

Craig, from Rainworth, said: “The success we’ve had since graduating is down to hard work but also the training we received from people like Mark. All the dishes we create stem from what we learnt at college, and we’re keen for current students to have the same opportunities that we had. The training that goes on here is invaluable.”

Chef tutor Mark, who sometimes appears as a guest chef at The Black Bull, said: “I’m very proud of what Lewis and Craig have achieved. They’ve taken the foundation skills gained at college and developed fantastic technical competency while staying true to their culinary roots.

“Rees is a key member of their team and is also doing exceptionally well in his career, playing an important role in the restaurant’s success.

“The evening was a great experience for our current learners and hopefully they will take inspiration from what Lewis, Craig and Rees are doing and return as highly-successful chefs themselves one day.”