Celebrity chef Tom Kerridge talks at VIP Lit Fest event
Gloucestershire College was thrilled to host an exclusive talk and book signing with two Michelin-starred chef and former student, Tom Kerridge, at Cheltenham Literature Festival on Monday 6th October.
The VIP event provided the College with the perfect platform to showcase its Catering and Hospitality School – the best in the county, no less – engage with leading local businesses and schools, and introduce the College’s brand new ‘Talent of Tomorrow’ initiative.
Now considered to be one of the UK’s top chefs, Tom regaled a jam-packed crowd of restaurateurs, chefs, students, teachers and governors with tales of growing up in Gloucester, studying at Gloucestershire College and setting up his hugely successful gastropub, The Hand & Flowers.
“I was 14 or 15 when I first turned an oven on; burning fish fingers and boiling baked beans to within an inch of their life,” said Tom, before adding it was a spaghetti bolognese recipe which gave him his first insight into understanding flavour.
A spell in theatre and television followed, but it Tom’s love for “driving round in cars with lowered suspension and blacked out windows, and hanging around outside McDonald’s”, not to mention being type casted as ‘Thug One’ in London’s Burning, which prompted him to sign up to a catering course at Gloucestershire College and get his first ‘proper’ job as a pot washer in the then Painswick Hotel.
Having been branded as “easily distracted” in his school reports, Tom said he loved the frenetic pace of the kitchen; the hierarchy, discipline and structure, which was instilled in the College classroom and local kitchen.
Fast forward several years and kitchens later, including Rhodes in the Square, Odette’s and Monsieur Max in Hampton, and Tom decided to open his own gastropub with his wife in Marlow.
‘I remember coming to The Trouble House in Tetbury in my jeans and trainers, and having this mind-blowing Red Mullet soup, thinking ‘why am I looking at opening a posh restaurant?’ I thought, let’s open somewhere I would want to go every day – and that was a pub.”
Tom offered plenty of advice to 50 of the College’s current catering students in attendance too, such as eating in independents, rather than chains, to explore new flavours and techniques. He added that students don’t necessarily need to be academic, but they do need to be passionate and intelligent, for example, learning maths through weights and portion division, and geography through food provenance.
“College lecturers will tell you themselves, you learn the basics at college; you learn about the breadth of the industry – everything from tasting menus for 15 to feeding 1,500 guests at an event and hospital catering – but you’ll learn the most on the job,” said Tom.
“The qualities needed to succeed? Passion, drive, determination and a willingness to learn. If you don’t love it, you’re never going to be any good at it.”
Guests had the chance to ask Tom questions following his talk, before the celebrity chef signed copies of his latest cook book, Tom Kerridge’s Best Ever Dishes, and posed for photos with students and fans. The College also launched its brand new ‘Talent of Tomorrow’ initiative during the event – contact Natalie Whistance on (01452) 563218 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Check out the photos for yourself via Gloucestershire College's Facebook page.