Former MasterChef judge helps launch new hospitality scholarship at Dundee and Angus College
Following the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality sector, which has led to there being an industry-wide staff shortage, the scholarship will help Scotland’s up-and-coming culinary talent gain vital skills.
Open to students in first, second and third year studying on the college’s professional cookery or hospitality courses, the shortlisting will take place in March 2022 with the award presented to three students in the summer.
Created by lifetime education ambassador, John McGee, who works across Scotland’s colleges to connect curriculum to the student experience, John collaborated with both the college and chef and John Benson-Smith to create the scholarship.
John McGee says: “John Benson-Smith made a comment on something on LinkedIn, complimenting West Lothian College on what they were doing in terms of their hospitality courses. So I said to him ‘have you ever thought of doing a scholarship for Scottish education?’
“We’re really struggling in hospitality and are 100,000 chefs short across the industry. We really need to get these students, who do fantastic work.
“At Dundee and Angus College, Kichelle Williams-Robinson and Sara Long who lead the college’s hospitality and professional cookery curriculum are just incredible.
“I thought if there is an opportunity to create a scholarship in Scotland, why do we want to keep it to just one college and one community? So rather than just keep it at West Lothian College, I asked John how he felt about opening it up to other colleges, too.”
The three successful students who achieve the award next July will receive numerous benefits, including once-in-a-lifetime educational experiences, a bespoke chef’s jacket and employment opportunities, including chef opportunities in local hotels.
Known most recently for being a former judge on BBC’s MasterChef, John Benson-Smith has had a varied career, including being the original flavour designer for Walker Sensations crisps.
“John is a chef in his own right as well as a business person. His profile is quite unique,” adds John McGee.
“He came back to me and said he was really up for creating the scholarship. Currently he’s working in an establishment in Perthshire so he is spending a lot of time now in Scotland.
“We met with Dundee and Angus College and their students, which was just an amazing experience. The professionalism of the hospitality team in Dundee and Angus is untouchable. They’re brilliant.
“I worked then with the college to get the ball rolling on the scholarship. It’s not just to do with what comes out the pan or the oven, it’s also about a student’s attitude, how they got there and what’s a challenge for them.”
Spearheading the scholarship
Dundee and Angus College will be the first in Scotland to offer the John Benson-Smith scholarship to students, with others on track to follow suit in the coming years.
It is hoped that such schemes help to plug some of the gaps currently being experienced by the hospitality industry.
John McGee continues: “We’ve lost a lot of people from the industry for various different reasons, so we need to upskill our existing workforce and embrace people who want to change their career.
“Judging will start from March or April with the decision made in July. Then it will be an annual thing every year for first, second and third year students.
“Applicants will be given questions on what their journey has been like such as what’s been challenging for them, what’s made them come into this etc. It’s about attitude and how they’ve embraced the educational side.”
The shortlisting of candidates will take place in March, with applicants required to meet four question criteria:
- Why did you choose to study hospitality/professional cookery at D&A college?
- What challenges, if any, have you experienced?
- What is your goal from coming to college and being successful with your studies?
- How would a John Benson-Smith scholarship enhance your aspirations?
A judging panel will make the final decision and award the applicants in July 2022.
The original version of this article was first published on the courier
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