Luke Birchall and Alister Wiggan swapped the unemployment line for a place on a Professional Cookery course at Bradford College - and have gone on to become award winning chefs. Now they are taking the catering world by storm with their culinary masterpieces.
The pair scooped trophies and cheques at the Hotelympia show in London, which is considered to be the catering equivalent of the Olymics. The competition is one of the world’s leading hospitality shows and competitions are a major feature, attracting competitors from around the world.
25 year old Luke worked in the hotel industry for many years, but knew that his real dream was to carve out a career as a chef. He also had a stint working in the construction industry before coming to Bradford College to enroll on the Part-time NVQ Professional Cookery Level 2 Course.
Alister previously worked in the Banking and Finance industry and always dreamt of becoming a chef. He believed that losing his sense of smell at the age of 18, through a tragic accident would hinder his chances of making a successful career out of cooking. Following a trip to a Bradford College Open Day, Alister found out from College Tutors, Dominic Hirst and Andy Bray that losing his sense of smell would not hold him back. Now having successfully won an award at the prestigious competition – there is no holding him back!
When asked how it felt to have scooped awards in the competition, Luke replied: “To win two awards is unbelievably great!” Luke and Alister took part in Le Salon Culinaire International de Londres incorporating the British Open Cookery Championships. Working as a team, they also achieved a Certificate of Merit in the Glennan’s Chef Challenge. The competition involved using Glennan’s Vegetable Crisps to prepare, cook and present two different canapés and two portions of a starter or main course – all in just 35 minutes!
Following the success of winning the competition, Luke has now been offered a full time catering position at the Bradford Wyke Lion, after he completes his course at Bradford College.
Speaking about his experience of Bradford College and winning the award, Alistair said: “Follow your dreams. Go speak to someone at college as it’s a fantastic learning environment. It covers ever single spectrum of working life – so whatever it is that you want to do… whatever it is that you enjoy doing in life, there will be a course that is right for you.”
Giving inspirational advice to anyone thinking of a career change, Alister added: “Before I came here, for fifteen years I believed I couldn’t do this job because of my lack of smell. I spoke to a tutor and within 30 seconds, my life had completely changed. I get out of bed every morning now and I’m happy to be working in a career that I’m passionate about. I’m 33 and it’s never too late to start – it feels like my life is just beginning.”
Luke added: “Coming to College has been a life changing experience – I wish I’d done it 10 years ago. I’ve made a lot of new friends here and we’re also considering starting up our own catering business. I’ve always worked in customer service and I’ve always liked making people happy. Now I’m doing it through my food.”
The pair expressed their appreciation for their Tutor, Colin Burt for helping them achieve their dreams, explaining that Colin had gone the extra mile to shape them into the award winning chefs we know today.
Tutor, Colin Burt reflecting on Luke and Alister’s comments said: “It’s really good to know I’ve inspired Alistair and Luke. The lads are not straight out of school. They’ve had a taste of being unemployed and going from job to job, not really knowing what they wanted to do. It’s nice to have had some small part in pointing out a career path for them. I believe that if they continue to work hard and hold onto their passion, they will have very promising careers as stars within the industry.”