Reading College students create a recipe for success at Royal Ascot

Students from Reading College were given a taste of what it is like to cater for a big event by taking part in work experience throughout Royal Ascot.

28 Professional Culinary Arts students studying from Levels 1 to 3 secured work experience with 1711 by Ascot.

1711 by Ascot is a partnership between Royal Ascot and hospitality company Sodexo, delivering outstanding hospitality, fine dining and on-site catering experiences.

Some students prepared fine dining dishes for the restaurants, while others prepared food for hospitality boxes.

Working with Raymond Blanc

Keanu and Gracjan prepare canapes

Gracjan Mazurek and Keanu Leach, who both study a Professional Culinary Arts Level 2 Certificate at the Kings Road campus, were hand-picked to work with Raymond Blanc, in his spectacular restaurant experience.

Two Michelin-star chef Raymond Blanc is the Culinary Consultant to Ascot Racecourse and has been working with them for over five years. His residency is in one of the most coveted restaurants at Royal Ascot – the Panoramic. He is also a contributor to the Ascot Service Academy.

Throughout the races, Gracjan and Keanu worked in the Panoramic Restaurant kitchens.

They helped to prepare starters including a tomato essence, baby gem niçoise, pea and broad bean tartlet canapé, sea bream ceviche starter with pickled vegetables, citrus cured salmon appetiser and heirloom tomato salad starter served with a basil pistou and black olives appetiser.

For the main course, grilled asparagus was served with freekah and cous cous tabouli, sauce epice, courgette flower and minted peas.

The duo also prepared a strawberry and vanilla panna cotta and Afternoon Tea. This included a selection of finger sandwiches, an English berry tart, salted caramel éclair, lemon cake, fruit scones served with strawberry jam and clotted cream and a cheese plate, featuring a selection of the best British and French cheeses with accompanying garnishes and chutneys.

Adam Johnson, Operations Director for Raymond Blanc Consultancy, with students Gracjan and Keanu.

Taking dishes to a new level

Yasmin Trigwell is studying a Professional Culinary Arts Level 2 Certificate at Reading College. During her time at Royal Ascot, she worked alongside Charlie, Rob and Jodie, Chefs at 1711 by Ascot.

She said: “Doing work experience at Royal Ascot made me feel like part of a team. I enjoyed seeing all the dishes come together and customers enjoying everything we prepared.

“The week before Royal Ascot was all about prepping ready for service with Charlie. The week of the event I worked closely with Rob and his team of chefs.

“Rob taught me new ways to plate and take dishes to a new level. I also worked in a few of the boxes with Jodie, who made me feel incredibly confident and I had an amazing time.

“I really enjoyed meeting new chefs and finding out about their experiences, which made me feel a lot more comfortable and confident. My favourite part was when I worked a box as it taught me to be fast and how to plate dishes under pressure!”

Students preparing salad boxes at Royal Ascot

A fantastic opportunity for our students

Paul Foley, Professional Cookery Teacher at Activate Learning, said: “Doing work experience at Royal Ascot has been a fantastic opportunity for our students.

“They have all thrown themselves into working in a busy environment with some fantastic chefs and learning new skills outside of college.

“It was great to see them and the smiles on their faces when I visited them, especially two of the students who got to work with Adam Johnson, Operations Director for Raymond Blanc Consultancy. It has also given them a real look into working as professionals in the trade.”

Ashley Hewlett, Recruitment Manager at 1711 by Ascot, said: “It’s great to see new chefs joining our industry and for us to be able to offer them great work experience.

“For me the junior chef scheme is particularly rewarding as you see students arrive on the first day shy and overwhelmed by the size of Ascot Racecourse. Yet, when you see them by the end of the week, they have gained confidence and are enjoying the atmosphere around the racecourse.”

Chef, Gemma Amor and Professional Culinary Arts student, Jessica Asquith at Royal Ascot

Gemma Amor, Executive Chef at 1711 by Ascot, said: “Sodexo has nurtured my career for 27 years, so I’m now paying it forward.

“We trained about 30 professional culinary arts students from Reading College here at Ascot Racecourse, and it’s a part of my job that I love. I also tell them not to focus on what they think is holding them back. I’m quite severely dyslexic and yet here I am, in my dream job, loving life.”

Find out about Hospitality and Professional Cookery courses available at Reading College or contact Activate Learning on 0800 612 6008.