London South East Colleges’ new sous chef and tutor at the BR6 Restaurant and Bakehouse based in Orpington has come to us with a wealth of sector experience and accolades to her name. She has catered for some of the UK’s most high-profile customers including HM Queen Elizabeth II and former Prime Minister, Baroness Thatcher.
Kirstie Ison joined our professional staff team at the College’s flagship Hospitality, Food and Enterprise Career College last October after a rather distinguished career as Commis Chef at the Goring Hotel in Victoria, Pastry Demi Chef de Partie at Lancaster London Hotel, Chef de Partie at Babylon Restaurant (Kensington Roof Gardens), Kilworth House Hotel in Leicestershire and the Cloverdale Catering Company and Sous Chef at the Church House Conference Centre, London.
London-born Kirstie is a product of the further education sector herself and also a former apprentice. Just over three years ago, she decided to take time out of her career to have a family and raise two young children. Though she stopped working full-time for the duration, she still managed to find time to study a part-time childhood studies course, a degree in psychology with the Open University and the Education and Training PGCE Diploma (validated by Canterbury Christ Church University) at our University Centre.
If that wasn’t enough to be getting on with, she also took the opportunity to embark on a personal health plan that enabled her to shed over six stone in weight in just 18 months with Slimming World.
Since arriving at the College, Kirstie has been a big hit with her students. Specialising in desserts, patisserie and baking, she is opening up a whole new world of opportunities for the young people in her team. She is also equipping them with a range of skills built up during her career so far and even giving them access to her own personal recipes and those passed on to her by her grandmother.
“It was my Nan that got me interested in cooking and baking to begin with,” says Kirstie. “I loved staying with her; we would create so many wonderful dishes together. I didn’t need to bring toys or games with me, I only wanted baking trays, rolling pins and mixing bowls.
“At school it was a similar story, I had a great teacher who inspired me to make catering my career and I vowed one day to become a teacher myself. First things first though, a professional career in the industry and the need to achieve as highly as I could.
“I took an apprenticeship at the prestigious (5 red star, 2 rosette) Goring Hotel and went on to become 1st Commis Chef. It was here that I cooked for Royalty and many other distinguished guests. At the end of my apprenticeship, I made it to the top three candidates in the Craft Guild of Chefs Apprentice of the Year (2008) Awards after being nominated by the Head Chef at The Goring.”
Returning to full-time employment means a lot to Kirsty and she has arrived at the College with huge expectations for her students and ambitious proposals to improve and expand our dessert and patisserie menu.
Kirstie continues: “The hospitality and catering sector is crying out for highly skilled chefs in a number of different areas to keep the industry booming; particularly in London and the south east. I want to give our students everything they need to get good jobs and enter careers they will love.
“Being a chef means being creative, having attention to detail and above all being incredibly well organised. You also need patience, and to be a ‘people-person’. All together you need to possess a lot of skills and knowledge and this doesn’t come to you overnight.
“At London South East Colleges, the students are taught their trade in a bustling, hands-on and realistic working environment. From the very beginning of their course, students work as a team to cook for, and provide a high-quality service to real customers. I’m loving being a part of this experience and I’m determined to turn these fabulous young people into the chefs of the future.”