Passionate about Pastry! Claire Clark MBE – Reveals Plans for Patisserie Academy at Milton Keynes College

Claire Clark is about to realise a lifelong dream with the opening of the Claire Clark Academy; centre of patisserie excellence. Claire has always believed passionately in nurturing the next generation of pastry chefs in the UK. When Tony Oxley, Programme Manager for Hospitality and Catering at Milton Keynes College, approached Claire with the concept; the answer was immediately a yes! The college is fully committed to an education for their students that goes above and beyond – and this approach fitted with Claire’s objectives for playing a part in the future of her profession.

A Pretty Sweet line-up The Claire Clark Academy is set to open in mid May and will be for students, professionals and enthusiastic home bakers. The programme will start with part day, one day, evening and weekend courses for home bakers and professionals. The areas covered will include; chocolate, sugar work, bread, pastry work, modern desserts, classic desserts, plating desserts and more… Specific times of day will be focused on, such as the ever popular afternoon tea and the constantly growing trend for baking real bread. The doors will open to the first intake of college students in September 2017. The Academy can accommodate fourteen full-time students of the college. The students will have the additional benefit of having work experience with Claire Clark in her ‘day job’ – her business Pretty Sweet is based in London and takes her all over the world. There will be opportunities to work alongside her as part of the students’ training.

Lee Maycock, National Chairman of the Craft Guild of Chefs pledged their support to this initiative: “It’s great to hear Milton Keynes College has aligned itself with someone so talented as Claire Clark to launch its patisserie academy. It’s paramount that we nurture the potential talent in the next generation to secure the future of this great industry. Claire will bring a wealth of experience and depth of knowledge to the college.”

Committed to her craft Claire’s career has taken in The Ritz, Buckingham Palace, Claridges, The French Laundry in California, Bluebird and Intercontinental and Westbury Hotels. This led her to establishing her business, Pretty Sweet alongside business partner, Sarah Crouchman, in 2014. Pretty Sweet sets a new standard for creative patisserie; providing delights for Wimbledon, The Brits and many other events in the UK and overseas. Claire was recognised in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday honours list and is the first person in the UK and only female recipient of “Meilleur Ouvrier de la Grande Bretagne” (MOGB) or “Best Crafts Worker of Britain”. Added to this she is a double winner of the Craft Guild of Chefs’ – Pastry Chef of the Year. These all recognise her commitment to her craft of patisserie.

Chefs, cookers and coldrooms…
Claire has joined forces with her long term colleague, Andrea Ruff. Claire and Andrea started out together at the Ritz and have stayed great friends ever since. Andrea was formerly Programme Manager of Patisserie and Confectionery at Westminster Kingsway and is Vice Chair of the Association of Pastry Chefs UK and on the Pastry Team UK committee. Andrea will be teaching the full-time students with regular input from Claire. They have also recruited the skills, expertise and shared passion of other celebrated chefs; Will Torrent, Barry Johnson, Mark Tilling, William Curley, Graham Horigold, Samantha Rain, Helen Vass, Matt Owens, Makiko Searle, Benoit Blin, Juliet Sear, Mike Zietek, Liam Grimes and the military team from BBC2 Crème de la Creme, Joanne Todd, Michelle Gillot, Ann Brown, James Campbell, Nelson Barros and Brooksy. These acclaimed chefs, will all be making appearances – to deliver specific workshops both to the students and across the public and professional programme.

Will Torrent explained why he had decided to become involved; “I’m extremely passionate about the training and nurturing of young chefs in our industry, which is why I’m proud to be supporting the Claire Clark Academy; Centre of Patisserie Excellence – to ensure we have pastry and chocolate stars of the future. I’m also looking forward to passing on my skills, techniques and passion to keen home bakers from across the UK.” This was supported by Helen Vass; “I am really excited to be part of this venture and to have the opportunity to share the knowledge I have gained from world class pastry chefs with others. By teaching, we are supporting the future of this industry and I want students to see that being a pastry chef is a wonderful job and it has so many opportunities. Claire Clark, for me, is a pastry chef who I have respected since I started training and to be involved in this project is such an honour.”

Claire has not only gained the support of chefs from across the industry but a long list of sponsors that are helping to equip the state of the art facility at the college. The development work has been carried to Claire and Andrea’s specific brief. Project management by Inox, and sponsors include: Rondo, Newell Rubbermaid, Gram, Signature FSE, Rational, Winterhalter, Cellthern Coldrooms, Carpigiani, Keylink, Callebaut, Ponthier, Russums, Restaurant Associates, Lexington, Marks & Spencer, Dr Oetker, Monkhouse Food & Drink, and a grant from the Savoy Educational Trust. The combination of chef and industry wide collaboration, shows just how much this is needed and the drive that there is, to make it a great success.

CC_AcademyPatisserie recognition – The Claire Clark Academy Claire explained her excitement about seeing her plan come to life; “This Centre of Patisserie Excellence truly has been created and supported by the industry for the industry. There are many of us who passionately want to see the skills that we learnt, continue to be used in kitchens across the UK. We had to find a way to pass these on – and Milton Keynes College has had the vision to realise that this is needed. Students will leave the college, not only with their professional qualification – but with the added accreditation from the Claire Clark Academy; something that we are working hard to ensure is highly recognised and respected, with chefs understanding the skills that the students will have acquired to achieve this. By opening the Academy doors beyond the college students, we can continue to develop other professionals and inspire home bakers too. I cannot contain my excitement that this is really happening!”