Next in our series of interviews with former UK Scholarship Award winners, we catch up with 2015's winner, Katie Leslie. Since completing our nine-month Diplôme de Cuisine, the three-month Diploma in Culinary Management, and a three-month internship at Angela Hartnett’s highly acclaimed restaurant Murano, she has gone on to work at another Michelin-starred restaurant, Jason Atherton's Social Eating House, in Central London. Katie tells us how she found the competition and how winning the prize has changed her life.
What inspired you to enter the UK Scholarship Award in 2015?
I was working as a commis chef for an events company but having had no previous training I felt that I really wanted to attend college or a culinary school to gain some formal training. Whilst searching for opportunities for young chefs I was lucky enough to discover the UK Scholarship Award. It seemed like such an amazing opportunity and opened the door to something that would not have been financially possible otherwise. I applied in 2014 and didn’t get any further than the application stage so I was really excited to see that Le Cordon Bleu London was running the competition again in 2015!
What was going through your mind during the different stages of the competition?
At no point in the competition did I really think I had a chance of winning, so I was just trying to enjoy it and get the best experience out of every stage. Just being able to attend a demonstration and masterclass from Master Chef Loïc Malfait during the final stage of the competition was a great experience in itself.
How did it feel to be the winner of the award?
It took at least a week to sink in, I really didn’t expect to win and I felt so fortunate to have been given such an amazing opportunity.
I think that having my Diplomas from Le Cordon Bleu London gave me the confidence to apply for positions at renowned restaurants such as Social Eating House.
What was your prize?
I won the nine-month Diplôme de Cuisine, followed by the three-month Diploma in Culinary Management, and an internship at Angela Hartnett’s highly acclaimed restaurant Murano, which was really good as it gave me my first experience in a Michelin-starred kitchen. I was also provided with complimentary accommodation in central London for the duration of my training at the school, courtesy of Urbanest.
How did you find studying for the Diploma at Le Cordon Bleu London?
I really enjoyed the Diplôme de Cuisine, from learning the basic vegetable cuts to putting on our own superior cuisine event, you learn so much over the course of nine months. The Diploma in Culinary Management was a great opportunity to try out modern techniques and begin to develop my own style. I was able to put together a business plan and gain a deeper insight into how the restaurant industry works.
What are you doing now?
I am currently working as a commis chef at Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton’s restaurant, Social Eating House in Soho. I am really enjoying it. Of course it can be difficult with the long hours and some tough days, but it is nothing that I wasn’t expecting! I think that having my Diplomas from Le Cordon Bleu London gave me the confidence to apply for positions at renowned restaurants such as Social Eating House, and I definitely feel that I am able to hold my own alongside other commis chefs that have different levels of training.
What is the most valuable thing that you have learned during this journey?
Le Cordon Bleu has equipped me with a solid foundation of techniques and methods which helps me to understand a lot of the processes we use in the restaurant. It has also taught me to work cleanly and quickly...something that is definitely very valuable in my daily work!
What do you hope to achieve within the next year?
I hope to keep working hard and learn as much as possible in my current role.
What do you hope to achieve within the next 5 years?
I am not sure exactly where I see myself in five years but I hope to still be making some great food…whether it’s in a top end restaurant or on my own food truck, who knows!
What advice would you give to the entrees for the UK Scholarship Award 2017?
Don’t worry too much about your skill level because that is not what Le Cordon Bleu are looking for! Just show them that you love food, you are willing to learn and that you can see yourself with a future in the culinary industry.
Want to follow in Katie's footsteps and win this life changing opportunity? Apply today for the UK Scholarship Award - all you need is passion, we'll teach you the rest.