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Back in 2014, when Gary Hunter was the culinary director at Westminster Kingsway College, he told The Caterer that he was "determined to better the standards of culinary education in the UK," and, as the winner of this year's Education and Training Catey, it seems he has delivered on this ambition.
As deputy principal of Westminster Kingsway College, Hunter oversees 15 operational kitchens, two award-winning restaurants, a cafeteria serving 700 people a day, and a culinary science department, which comprises a chocolate kitchen and a food innovation lab.
The college has 50 specialist lecturers and a support team, delivering culinary and hospitality training and education to more than 2,000 learners each academic year. This ranges from 14-year-old chefs enrolling in the Young Chefs Academy through to degree-level qualifications.
Over the past two years Hunter has worked with Professor Sophie Park, head of primary medicine at UCL Medical School, and GPs Rupy Aujla and Abhinav Bhansali to set up a culinary medicine course. The course is delivered to doctors and medical students in their fifth year of study and to first- and second-year culinary students at Westminster Kingsway College. It is designed to offer GPs the knowledge and skills to prescribe a healthy diet to their patients, and more than 400 students and 100 doctors have completed the course.
The Westminster Kingsway medicine team is also working with the British Army on the importance of nutrition, adapting menus and recipes to improve the health of soldiers.
With a practical chef background (predominantly as a pastry chef) and Michelin-starred restaurant experience, Hunter has represented the UK in culinary competitions and is an ambassador for Barry Callebaut UK, with chocolate and pâtisserie his specialist area. He is an active member of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, supports Springboard's Future Chef national steering committee, works as a trustee for the PM Trust, a charity which gives bursaries to aspiring young chefs who need a helping start to their careers, is a fellow of the Master Chefs of Great Britain and is also part of an advisory body for the Savoy Educational Trust.
Significantly, says judge David Foskett, "He has continuously adapted and changed the college's curriculum to reflect the needs of the student to meet the demands of the industry."
For someone who went into teaching by accident, Hunter has done an incredible job of advancing the level of food and hospitality education in the UK. He has worked to raise the profile of hospitality colleges and is one of the industry's great ambassadors.
What the judges said
"Gary's achievements are considerable. He has done so much for the industry over the years and his passion has not wavered." – Beth Aarons
"Gary is such a very worthy winner when you consider he manages a very successful team at Westminster that offers a breadth of programmes, as well as maintaining more than 500 industry partnerships." – Willie McCurrach
"Gary is a true professional educator who has progressed from being an incredibly talented chocolatier and chef-lecturer to becoming a great deputy principal of his college. He has seriously stepped up to his new role and should be very proud of all that he and the team are doing." – Julia Sibley
- Gary Hunter, deputy principal, Westminster Kingsway College, London
- Gordon McIntyre, head of hospitality, City of Glasgow College
- Gary Richmond, culinary learning and development manager, Mitchells & Butlers
- Molly Shaher, curriculum team leader for hospitality/catering, Middlesbrough College
- Beth Aarons, HR director, the Dorchester
- Andrew Boer, principal, Edge Hotel School
- David Cochrane, chief executive, HIT Scotland
- John Cousins, director, the Food and Beverage Training Company
- Peter Ducker, chief executive, Institute of Hospitality
- David Foskett, consultant, David Foskett Associates
- Willie McCurrach, food and hospitality consultant, the Scottish Salmon Company
- David McKown, head of training and quality, University of Sheffield
- Julia Sibley, chief executive, Savoy Educational Trust
- Sara Jayne Stanes, chief executive, Royal Academy of Culinary Arts