A New Way of Learning at South Lanarkshire College

South Lanarkshire College

Helen competed in the BBC contest along with teammates Mark Tilling and Samantha Rain. She now lectures at South Lanarkshire College and she tells The Chefs’ Forum how she is dealing with college teaching whilst adhering to restrictions.

How are you coping with college teaching?
At the moment, teaching is coming with its challenges but South Lanarkshire College is trying very hard to ensure that the student experience is not compromised and student and staff safety is our number one priority.

How often are students cooking?
Currently, our students are cooking one day per week at the moment to adhere to government guidelines on social distancing. We have a maximum capacity of 6 students and one lecturer per class to be able to work safely. When restrictions ease, we hope to the students back in more than one day in the kitchen but we have to take it a day at a time.

How have the students coped with the new rules?
The students have been brilliant and really understanding with the COVID restrictions and we are all working together. They are just so pleased to be in the kitchen and our returners are delighted to get hands on again.

How did you work during lockdown?
I adapted my online teaching methods through Microsoft Teams by making my own video demos for students to follow and practice recipes at home. Furthermore, we had group discussions, online quizzes to test knowledge, researching afternoon tea/dessert menus and students designing their own as well as inviting guest pastry chefs and bakers from industry for question and answer sessions. These Q&A sessions were a great success as it gave students the chance to ask questions to chefs they may not always have access to.

When did you start teaching?
I have been in education now for the past year and a half and every day is a school day. It’s so exciting to train the future pastry chefs and give students a chance to change their lives and circumstances. To see progress in a student is so rewarding and I am so privileged to be part of their learning journey. I was like them back in 2013 and then two years later I went on to be in the winning team of BBC’s Bake Off Creme de la Creme. I never would have thought in a million years I could have done that and I remind students that anything is possible.

What was your training beyond college?
I worked in a patisserie in Barcelona called Escriba and there I learned so much. That job gave me the chance to relocate to Singapore for a month where we did the world’s first theatrical pastry event, Fantasia by Escriba, hosted at the Marina Bay Sands convention centre.

Think Willy Wonka and multiply it by 100! A life-size chocolate waterfall, chocolate sculptures, chocolate shoes, masterclasses and theatre all under the one roof. It was a great experience to work with local pastry chefs and students from SHATEC culinary school in Singapore.

I have also worked alongside world champion pastry chef, Jordi Bordas, helping him in classes and also doing courses with him. He is a very important mentor for me and is one of a kind.

I’ve also invested in courses at the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy in Vic, Catalonia, and learned from pastry chefs such as Melissa Coppel, Miquel Guarro, Daniel Alvarez, the team of pastry chefs from Tickets restaurant and many more. These courses are not cheap but I see them as an investment, One chef said to me, if you want to do your best, learn from the best, and that’s what I’ve aimed to do. Every day is a school day.