One day, the Luban Workshop kitchen at Crawley College in England’s West Sussex was filled with the delicate scent of chicken and peanuts after chef Marcel Chisiu had worked his culinary magic to create Kung Pao Chicken, one of the most popular Chinese dishes worldwide.
Chisiu, head chef from a Marriott hotel near the Gatwick Airport, has studied Chinese culinary skills and art at the British Luban Workshop, which since September last year has launched the first fully-regulated Chinese-dish catering course in Britain.
“Chinese culinary art is like an endless bag with techniques and ingredients. The course is fully enjoyable,” Chisiu, who has worked as a chef for 18 years, told Xinhua.
“Another reason for me to choose this course is the unbeatable reputation of Chinese culinary art. The course is done by master chefs (from China) and it means endless job opportunities. You can work anywhere in the world if you have this qualification,” he added.
With joint efforts by the Tianjin Economics and Trade School and its British partner PAM Education, the British Luban Workshop was launched three years ago with the aim to provide vocational education and training in authentic Chinese culinary skills to improve the quality of Chinese catering services worldwide, to promote Chinese food culture, and ultimately, to create high-end brands of Chinese cuisine.
The program has chosen Chichester College Group (CCG), the largest further education provider in southeast England, as the course deliverer.
The course is delivered primarily online with weekly webinars and offline practical assessments held in a fully operational Chinese kitchen at CCG’s Crawley College. Tutors and chefs from Tianjin fly in to Britain on a regular basis to teach courses.
Samantha Carey, course leader from Crawley College, said the course topics include the development of Chinese food culture, how to prepare and cook hot and cold dishes, Chinese pastries, and dough modelling.
Carey, who used to be a chef herself, went to Tianjin last year for the China-UK workshop cooperation. She told Xinhua she is very happy to see the Luban kitchen bring new opportunities to the British catering industry.
“We are now working together with the same message of eating fresh, eating healthy. We couldn’t ask for anything more to enhance catering and the hospitality industry. We all love (it that) it’s all about bringing back the passion and the fun within catering,” Carey said.
Currently eight students from diverse backgrounds have enrolled in the course.
Tracey Connors, who works for Leicester City Football Club, is one of the eight student cooks. She said she is happy to obtain the qualification to help introduce new healthy dishes to the academy for football scholars.
“I wanted to take the course because many of the young players now prefer to eat spicy, Asian-style food. The take-away food on offer is generally unhealthy and doesn’t meet the nutritional requirements the club insists upon,” she said. “By learning how to cook authentic Chinese dishes, I can give them the food that they enjoy eating and it is healthy and nutritious. It also stops them from being tempted to buy the unhealthy take-away food options.”
Earlier this year, the students had a rare chance to cook for 10 Downing Street, when British Prime Minister Theresa May invited the British Chinese community to celebrate the Chinese New Year.
With 150 people attending the event, the students made canapes alongside three prestigious Chinese master chefs who had been recruited to help prepare for the event.
Dr. Xiaoli Dutton, one of the founding partners of PAM Education, said the Luban Workshop, inspired by the Belt and Road Initiative, is an international collaborative framework that offers high-quality vocational education programs that can benefit both China and Britain.
“In the UK, traditional classroom-based vocational education has been found inefficient in providing much needed home-grown talents to keep up with the demand of industries. The timing is right to develop the Luban Workshop in the UK. Not only will it tackle the problem of lacking skilled Chinese cuisine talents in our country, but it will also provide the opportunity to pilot a new apprenticeship model that will enhance the employability of our learners, and ultimately support the businesses to grow,” she said.
Mike Mounfield, a British expert on hospitality and catering education, praised the Luban Workshop as a means to facilitate the exchange of students from China and Britain.
“These exchange programs will develop lifelong learning, culture and develop standards,” he said.
Britain’s celebrity chef Ching He Huang, who attended the Luban Workshop course’s launch event at Crawley College last year, said that thanks to the workshop, “the future for Chinese cuisine in the UK just got a whole lot brighter.”