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The Corporation

Posted: 02/07/18

“Inspirational” Mandy in running for chef mentor award

An “inspirational” cookery mentor, who has trained hundreds of would-be chefs and equipped high needs students with independent living skills, is in the running for a top industry accolade.

Mandy Prince pictured in the college’s training kitchens, where she nurtures young people.

Mandy Prince, a learner advisor and supervisor at West Nottinghamshire College, has been announced as a finalist in the UK’s first-ever Chef Mentor Awards.

She has been shortlisted in the Best College Chef Mentor category, up against three other hopefuls from institutions in Sheffield, Birmingham and South Lanarkshire, Scotland.

Run by industry title Hospitality and Catering News, the awards will honour professionals working across all major sectors of the trade who have trained, nurtured and developed aspiring chefs.

The glittering ceremony, being staged as part of the H&C Expo at Celtic Manor Resort hotel, South Wales (16-18 July), takes place on Tuesday 17 July and will see Mandy rub shoulders with high-profile names from across the world of restaurants, hotels, catering and education that make up the 10 category shortlists.

Finalists, who have been chosen by their colleagues and peers, include legendary Michelin-star chef Albert Roux OBE, who is up for two awards, along with mentors who sometimes work behind-the-scenes but have demonstrated an equally-strong commitment to sharing their skills, knowledge and expertise.  

Mandy was nominated for showing exceptional dedication to helping students achieve their potential throughout her 15-year career at the Mansfield college.

Joining as head of stores in 2003, she was initially responsible for ordering produce and ingredients to be used in cookery lessons, maintaining stock levels, and ensuring kitchen equipment was in good working order – all crucial elements in supporting teaching and learning.

But her real passion was working with students directly, and she could often be found teaching them basic kitchen skills; having had vast experience of working in various catering roles over the years including a cook supervisor at a residential care home.

After gaining her City and Guilds Assessors Award at the college, Mandy began helping learners complete the stores unit of their cookery NVQ as well as voluntarily supporting those with high needs such as emotional, behavioural and learning difficulties.

Her efforts were quickly recognised and she was asked to take on her own student groups, supervising their work in the college’s production kitchens. This sees learners on entry-level and introductory diploma courses in hospitality and catering run staff bistro, Relish, to experience a real-life working environment.

Amongst the procession of students Mandy has taught over the years, many have gone on to forge promising careers both locally and further afield. She counts Tim Foster, a trainee chef at two Michelin-star restaurant Midsummer House, in Cambridge, as one of her most notable recent successes. The 20-year-old secured the coveted position upon graduating from the NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Professional Cookery last year having begun his training with Mandy on the level one course.

However, she is just as proud of her work with high needs students, which has seen her develop strategies to keep them engaged and maximise their learning and skills.

Mandy, from Nottingham, said: “I was really surprised to discover I’d be nominated – it’s still sinking in. To me, I’m just doing my job, which is giving students the best that I can give them and making sure they do well.

“Passing on the very best of my knowledge so they can get a good job after leaving college, or equipping high needs learners with essential life skills for independent living so they can look after themselves at home, is what motivates me every day.

“But I couldn’t do it all on my own; I’ve had amazing support from members of the team over the years and I’m touched they think as much of me as they do. I’m really proud to be put forward for this award so I already feel like a winner, regardless of the outcome. Either way, I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing.”

Curriculum manager for hospitality and travel, Helen Wilcockson, who nominated the popular mentor, said: “Mandy is an inspirational member of staff who goes out of her way to help everybody. She always take students’ different needs into account and makes sure they all achieve their full potential.

“When it comes to mentoring students, Mandy’s an invaluable part of the college and she’d be a highly-deserving winner of this award.”

The Chef Mentor Awards will celebrate the achievements of people working across all aspects of hospitality and catering in the UK, from restaurants, hotels and contract catering to schools, colleges, universities and care homes.

Chairman of the judging panel, celebrity chef Cyrus Todiwala OBE, said: "All mentors deserve recognition and the volume and quality of the nominations made the judging very difficult, but we emerged happy with the results.

"We are now looking forward to the awards evening where we will celebrate the short-listed chefs and announce the winners of each category. It will be a very special evening.”