From education to employment

FROM FARM TO FORK: Northumberland College students get a real-life taste of the food chain

Following on from huge success at the recent NECTA (North East Culinary and Trade Association) North East Chef of the Year event, a specially-designed, industry-driven initiative to help Northumberland College’s catering students obtain first-hand experience of the food chain, has been delivered.

With the help of Six restaurant’s top professional chef, Steve Burkitt, level 2 and 3 students at the College’s Ashington campus have been given real commercial insight into the farm to fork process, from how to sustainably rear an animal to preparing, cooking and creating gourmet dishes in a commercial bistro environment.

Using locally-farmed and organically-sourced pork, the group initially visited Thistlehaugh Farm in Longhorsley, Northumberland, to see how pigs are reared, cared for and prepared for transportation.

They also participated in a charcuterie and cookery workshop held at Six at the Baltic, Gateshead, where Steve, Head of Butchery & Event Production for restaurant-owners, Fresh Element, taught the students various butchery techniques and demonstrated how to expertly cut and utilise the whole pig, minimising food waste.

The joint collaboration aims to promote stronger education and industry partnership within the hospitality sector as well as support local food production and enhance full traceability. Steve has also visited the students to teach onsite, and prepare and serve a gourmet menu for regular diners at the College’s Gallery restaurant.

Furthermore, one student, Adam Oxby (18), has also been offered a placement at Six working behind-the-scenes in the kitchens each week alongside a team of award-winning chefs. As well as gaining valuable experience in one of the region’s top restaurants, he is also learning new culinary skills from preparation to food presentation, as well as working with suppliers, building his knowledge to become a professional chef.

Darren Lawton, Catering Manager from Northumberland College commented:

“In addition to their academic learning, there is no better way for our students to acquire the necessary skills, knowledge and commercial expertise than to get involved in a real-life project and experience all elements of the food industry first-hand. By linking up with Six at the Baltic and Steve, we can provide our students with valuable insight into the industry.

“The students are learning from professionals at the top of their game including how to buy responsibly, price menus accordingly and factor in market costs. It’s a fantastic project and one which will provide the right skills for higher education or employment.”

Chef Steve Burkitt added:

“It’s really great to be working with Northumberland College’s catering students, showing them the different stages of the food journey as well as the importance of sustainable, local, organic produce in cooking.

“These students are the region’s future Chefs and Six restaurant is pleased to support the college by offering a placement to Adam. We hope to provide more opportunities to other students in the future.”

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