Alumni Return For Online ‘Lockdown’ Masterclasses

Ben Murphy, WestKing Alum

Since it began in March, the Coronavirus lockdown has provided an opportunity for students of Westminster Kingsway College and The Vincent Rooms to put down their utensils and engage with renowned chefs.

The college – home to London’s leading culinary school – has hosted four online ‘lockdown’ question and answer Masterclasses for students so far, with chefs Ben Murphy, Freddie Forster, Selin Kiazim and Andrew Wong – all of whom are alumni of the college. The Masterclasses gave students a unique opportunity to hear the alumni talk about their careers so far and what they have learned along the way, as well as their top tips for success.

Ben Murphy

The first Masterclass was on 1 April with Ben Murphy, head chef at Launceston Place restaurant in London’s Kensington, who gave a ‘warts and all’ talk about his career. Ben graduated from our Professional Chef Diploma course in 2010 aged just 19 and went on to work in France and at the five-star Berkeley Hotel, Knightsbridge. He said: “The college is the foundation of everything that I learned, from holding a knife to making a base for a sauce.

“But it wasn’t just the cooking. I learned how to be more patient, how to respect my elders and those who know more than me.” He went on to talk about those that influenced his career including mentor Norman Fu and his tutors at WestKing, whose advice and feedback he still seeks. Career highlights for Ben include being driven by Pierre Koffmann to the south of France to work in a 3 Michelin starred restaurant. “It was tough, but I learned a lot and eventually I think I earned their respect,” he said. Providing inspiration to the next generation of culinary and hospitality professionals, Ben told them: “You get out what you put in. The harder you work, the more you get. Live your best life, be happy and have no regrets.”

Freddie Forster

The next chef to share their expertise and experience with students was Saturday Kitchen regular and former Head Chef at le Pont de la Tour restaurant in London, Freddie Forster, on 8 April. Describing his decision to stay at the college and complete his final year as “the best decision I ever made,” Freddie graduated from the three-year Professional Chef Diploma course in 1990 and went on to work for Raymond Blanc in a career that has taken him all over the world. Freddie’s Masterclass covered everything from his favourite dishes to cook and eat, to staying positive and setting goals. Freddie provided a unique insight into the impact of the pandemic and how he believes it will affect the service industry. He discussed the need for restaurants to be more vigilant on spending money and how hygiene practices will change. You can watch it here:

Selin Kiazim

Our third culinary Masterclass was on 23 April, with Selin Kiazim, who graduated from the college in 2008. Students logged in to hear her talk about her time at WestKing and how competing in culinary competitions helped shape her future. One of these competitions resulted in her winning a five-week trip to New Zealand where she met world famous chef Peter Gordon. She went on to work for him and eventually became head chef at the Kopapa restaurant. Trying to establish herself in her own right, she then ran several pop ups across the UK and it was only after a career-changing review from Giles Coren in The Times that she gained confidence in her Turkish Cypriot cuisine and opened her restaurant Oklava in 2015. Selin also competed on The Great British Menu in 2017 and her dessert was selected for the final banquet.

Students questioned Selin on being a female in a male-dominated industry. She talked about the harsh reputation that working in kitchens has and how working for Peter Gordon taught her that nurturing her staff is important. “The way that I treat people and the way I run my kitchen is very much in line with him [Peter Gordon],” she said. Watch Selin in action:

Andrew Wong

Andrew Wong – the host of our fourth Masterclass – grew up in a culinary family. His parents were restaurateurs, but the young Andrew was much more interested in studying to go to university than helping out in the kitchen – indeed he deliberately threw himself into his studies so he wouldn’t have to work in his mum and dad’s traditional Chinese restaurant. But people, and circumstances, change and after leaving university and training to be a chef at Westminster Kingsway College, Andrew is a highly accomplished chef with a Michelin Star for his restaurant A. Wong. Watch his Masterclass here:

Programme Manager for the Professional Chefs Diploma at Westminster Kingsway College, Paul Jervis, said: “We are a very well-connected college and these Masterclasses are a unique chance for students to hear first-hand from people who are not only their heroes in the industry, but who, like them, have studied here. We’ve been delighted to run four Masterclasses so far and we are really grateful to Ben, Freddie, Selin and Andrew for taking part.”

“We have a lot of other talented and successful culinary alumni who we keep in regular contact with. We’re pleased that so many of them want to help inspire the next generation of chefs and so we’re planning more Masterclasses, with more alumni, as the lockdown continues.

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Sebastien R
Sebastien R
12/12/2020
Fantastic London Secret Fantastic lunch with Michelin star food and service at pub price. Great experience, lovely food and people.
David L
David L
11/12/2020
Christmas at the Brasserie Almost a year to the day since the last time, we are back, this time at the Brasserie instead of the Escoffier. Situated in the hall, the decor is functional but pleasant enough and there had been an effort to dress it up for Christmas. Covid precautions are impeccably implemented. There is no doubt that you are in a classroom not a restaurant. Don't let that put you off - its great what these students and their teachers do. Our server was Tia (hope I spelled that right) and she was friendly and attentive. Service was very prompt - I won't say rushed as we were never pressured but we did end up asking for some time to choose dessert simply to give ourselves some breathing room. In a commercial place I would suspect they were trying to turn the tables but here I think it was just exuberance. The food was the usual high standard. Starter of poached pear and blue cheese salad was enjoyed by both of us. Dining companion had the classic turkey and all the trimmings. I had the root vegetable strudel which was beautifully presented and enjoyable. The chocolate mousse for dessert was nice but we both found it too sweet for us and thought the cream was a step too far - but we chose it instead of the cheese board because we wanted to have something prepared by the kitchen. Value is great for the level of food and service: the bill came to about £90 for 3 courses each and a bottle of wine. Snags: they forgot to offer us bread before the starters arrived, rectified before we had even thought to notice the absence. And my mousse was missing the tiny star shaped shortbreads as advertised - only spotted by us half way through eating it. None of which detracted in anyway from the experience. It cannot be said enough that this is a great place that needs support to enable these students to progress. Go if you can, it's a gem. I hope that 2021 is a better year for the hospitality sector and that we are back much sooner than next Christmas.
Peter B
Peter B
04/12/2020
Amazing delicious meal We had the Christmas meat menu and it was very special. The whole meal had just the right amount of seasoning - perfect. The cauliflower cheese soup with cauliflower pieces was complimented by a slight spicy fried bhaji. The prawn sauce with the fish was delicate and perfect with the haddock. Now the venison was not only tender but really well cooked and the chutney was really tasty - a Christmas's flavour. To finish the chutney I would have needed more venison but was getting a bit full by then. The Christmas pudding was to die for. Congratulations a brilliant meal beautifully prepared with fabulous ingredients and the service was nearly Michelin starred. Well be back
Veniceaddict7
Veniceaddict7
22/10/2020
Delightful meal Visted for lunch today in Escoffier Room (held in Brasserie section on this occasion). Welcomed warmly by reception and students as usual. The Escoffier menu was outstanding. There was not a course you could fault. The compte brulee was my favourite - will try and duplicate this at home! Food was beautifully presented and superb. The students were effecient,friendly and helpful. Better than my birthday meal at a Michelen starred restaurant. Sadly not many customers due to covid however very safe set up so would encourage others to go. Amazing value for money.
Edwardscot
Edwardscot
21/10/2020
The Vincent Rooms I had a very pleasant and relaxed 5 course meal with wine pairing. The food and wine were excellent, the staff are students at the college and are helpful and informative. For £60 it can’t be beat for value. A firm favourite.
W14wanderer
W14wanderer
21/10/2020
Budding chef’s creations Delicious food created and served by students at Westminster Kingsway College. Six course tasting menu - wine and food - of very high quality and at a very reasonable price. The experience so enjoyable and good to encourage the young chefs who’ll be running our restaurants in due course.
Tully
Tully
19/10/2020
Lovely lunch, hope to return soon We ate in the Escoffier and had the seafood menu with accompanying wines. All was very good and we enjoyed very much. To my personal taste : 1. the tomato consume added little to the seafood medley. 2. The crumble detracted from the sorbet. 3. The chocolate bavoirois would have benefitted from a contrasting flavour on the plate, eg citrus, ginger, or other fruit. Thank you and best wishes to all the students.
Sue Twyford
Sue Twyford
13/10/2020
Fantastic menu and attentive service A lovely atmosphere with very attentive service, a seven course seafood themed menu. Each course was delicious, the dover sole being a particular delight. The price for a fine dining menu was excellent and well worth a visit, we will be returning and would highly recommend.
Laura E
Laura E
08/10/2020
Perfect lunch - delicious dishes and great service Like most people, my husband and I haven't eaten out that much recently so it was a real treat to come here for lunch yesterday. The tables were spaced out very comfortably and the environment was modern, inviting and spacious. The menu (which changes every week) was really interesting, created in partnership with New Covent Garden Market so you could chose to have an entirely vegetarian 7-course lunch or one which included fish and meat, but conveniently you could pick and chose per course. I mainly had the fish/meat menu but hand-picked the artichoke starter which was so fresh and tasty, a great choice. The pork belly main with scallop was a definite highlight, but all the dishes displayed a high level of sophistication and strong mastery of different techniques. Im a celiac and they were very good at accommodating this in the dishes, even giving me different petit fours. Top marks, we will be returning soon!
Tom_Egerton
Tom_Egerton
08/10/2020
The best value, high quality, enjoyable eating in London for sure! We ate at the Escoffier room which is the 7 course set menu option. A bargain at £31 a head which included super high quality produce cooked with skill by the third year students. Interesting, flavoursome dishes with a weekly changing set menu. This week was a sea food based menu which didn't disappoint. service staff are first year students which are learning the ropes in the hospitality world. Maximum effort and attention was given by everyone we met. well worth checking out if you want something a bit special and we will definitely be returning again soon!
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76 Vincent Square
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