Cambridge Regional College student, Lacey

Lacey Russell didn’t always have such a clear idea of what her future may hold, leaving secondary school at 14yrs to join a supported learning programme with @CRC_College to complete her GCSE’s and explore alternative learning opportunities.

It was during this period of change that Lacey was introduced to the Level 1 Catering and Hospitality course and a passion for the service industry was ignited. Lacey completed her Level 1, along with her GCSE’s, and enrolled onto the Level 2 Technical Certificate before progressing to Level 3 Technical Certificate for Professional Chefs to continue her Post-16 education. Recounting her experience of studying at CRC, Lacey said, “It was a rollercoaster, there were ups and downs but generally speaking it was a positive experience. I found it very rewarding and I would highly recommend CRC.”

Describing herself as a practical learner, Lacey believes that the change in the learning environment and approach to teaching is what made the difference in her engagement with education, leading her to achieve such positive outcomes. “It felt like more of a personal learning journey where I was treated as an individual as opposed to one of the year group. Being able to use professional kitchens as a practical way of developing my skills built upon my confidence and supported my progression as a chef. The lecturers were like an extended family, working alongside me, supporting me every step of the way.”

As with so many others, in the early part of 2020, Lacey found herself in the middle of the lockdown situation just as she was preparing to complete her final synoptic, a three-part assessment that includes an eight-hour practical, requiring her to produce six different dishes. In an unexpected change to delivery, the course assessment process was altered to incorporate an increased level of theory to allow learners to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding, something that Lacey hadn’t always found so easy to engage with.

On the flip-side, an unexpected positive outcome of distance learning was the online catering competition between CRC and Lambeth College, London. The live event took place over a video call and followed eight chefs as they competed to produce a pastry dish in their domestic kitchens, using everyday food items. This is a move that Lacey describes as an exciting development in the way catering competitions are hosted, one that will open the way for greater collaboration and shared learning between colleges.

Describing her experience as a chef in a domestic kitchen during the lockdown, Lacey added, “Being a chef isn’t always about the fancy kitchens and utensils, it is about how you use your mind, the processes you follow and the care that you put into your work to make a product.”

Lacey has now completed her Level 3 Diploma and after applying to study on the Concord Chef Development Programme, she received the exciting news that she had been accepted onto the January 2021 intake. The programme will expose Lacey to the frontline of the hospitality and catering industry through paid roles in fully functioning hotels across the country. “I am excited about the future, but also a little nervous. I have always been told the nerves show you care, so I will keep learning and take it one step at a time.”

Anthony Dunball, Chef Tutor added, “Lacey has proved to be a model student, showing great enthusiasm and devotion to her studies. It has been a pleasure and privilege to have been her tutor during the final year of her course”.

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