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Kian Marshall

Level 5 Culinary Arts

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Kian Marshall

Kian studies Culinary Arts at Newcastle College University Centre. He Stepped Up to a degree after studying at Newcastle College. Find out what he has to say about his time learning with us.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself, your background, etc.?

I started wanting to be a chef at 14. When I finished my GCSEs, I started as a commis chef at a local pub and my interest and skills developed from there. Culinary interest runs in my family – my great-uncle was a chef who owned a few restaurants, so I guess I followed his example!

Why did you choose to Step Up to a degree at Newcastle College University Centre?

I already knew the lecturers and liked their hands-on teaching style. The University Centre degree was an equal balance of theory and practical learning, so the relative lack of coursework appealed to me! Lastly, being a Newcastle College student already, the transition to degree life at the University Centre was smoother than it would have been anywhere else, especially since I already know the standard of facilities and teaching are all very high.

What was it about this course that made you want to progress onto a degree at Newcastle College University Centre?

The course felt quite free to me, compared to similar courses at other universities. The lecturers are very open-minded, and always asked what we wanted to learn about or try to cook, so it was a good chance to express ourselves and develop our skills and interests within a firm learning structure. Sometimes, we'd be challenged to cook a dish using a trolley of unknown ingredients, which was always quite exciting. The dishes could be quite exotic or unusual like quail or pigeon, which gave us all a great opportunity to broaden our experience of cooking using different techniques.

What benefits do you think there are in staying on to study at Newcastle College University Centre?

Continuing to study as Newcastle College University Centre has helped me plan for my future, since our degrees are structured to slowly enter us into the working world through industry contacts. We’re offered unique personal and professional development modules that help us to build important skills like entrepreneurship or business management. The University Centre ensures we enter industry with a better idea of where to progress than graduates from other universities.

What are the facilities like at the University Centre for your course and as a student?

I definitely used the library more for my degree, since there's a greater emphasis on theory on my current course so I've used more academic referencing. The HE Hub, Parsons tenth floor and other degree students-only areas are great places to relax or study. For the Chef’s Academy courses though, the facilities remain the same industry-standard kitchens and equipment as Level 3, which is good since I knew exactly what equipment was available and how to us them.

What do you enjoy the most about your degree?

Personally, I love how free we can be on this degree. While we do get taught about different concepts in our teaching modules, we have the chance to do our own research and tailor practical skills to suit our interests and preferences. We’ve also free to choose the dishes we’d like to make, or the skills we want to develop, in discussion with our tutors.

What inspires you?

I want to prove to the old guard of the culinary world that the new generation of chefs can change it, maybe even evolve cooking. The old-style chefs aren't very progressive, so I’d like to prove new innovations in the field can be a massive asset. I’d also like to inspire new people to consider a chef’s career, since it’s far more complex than just cooking. New culinary styles like molecular gastronomy, dehydration or sous-feed are quite scientific, whereas traditional cooking styles focus on utensils which can still make great food if done well, but it’s no longer the only approach. The skills I’m gaining at Newcastle College University Centre are setting me up to dive into that new world of gastronomy.

Tell us about how you have worked with industry whilst studying your degree (i.e. talks / live briefs / projects).

We’ve just had a guest talk recently about entrepreneurial skills which had some useful insights. On other courses, we might sometimes get speakers come in to discuss broader topics, but on this degree course, the University Centre brings in industry-experienced speakers to give targeted talks for pretty much every module.  

How do you think learning from industry-experienced tutors has benefitted you?

It provides great insights into what working in the cookery industry is actually like. Sometimes, industry talks become unfocused and imagine a future industry instead of what it is now, but all the tutors and guest speakers we meet are really helpful. Our lecturers provide really honest insights about their experiences in industry, since most of them are still working in industry to some extent so they can advise us in taking the best steps for our careers.

How would you describe the staff at the University Centre?

I get on well with the staff, since I’ve studied under them consistently for four years now. Having that much familiarity and support definitely helps lecturers understand how we learn individually, which brings out our best in the long run. Compared to another university, where I would have had to familiarise myself with new teachers and teaching methods of questionable quality, studying at the University Centre is much more preferable to me.

Have you overcome any challenges either before or whilst studying your degree?

I’ve overcome a lot of academic theory issues. Admittedly, I wasn’t the best at formal writing before starting my degree, but over my time at the University Centre my skills have become a lot stronger, which is an added benefit I wasn't expecting at first.

What kinds of support have you received during your studies?

In the main, I’ve received a lot of academic support and wellbeing support whenever necessary. For example, if I was ever absent from class one day, then my lecturers or a member of the HE Team would ask me how I was doing in myself, rather than just being focused on my academic performance, which is really good.

What has been the highlight of your time studying at Newcastle College University Centre?

Building connections throughout the cookery industry. Thanks to networking opportunities, myself and another student won a national fish-cooking competition, during which we met chefs from across the industry. Their advice on building culinary and entrepreneurial skills in the cookery industry was amazing! It goes to show that the chances we get at Newcastle College University Centre are second to none.

What’s Newcastle like as a student city, in your experience?

Newcastle is a very good student city because there are so many different places to study and gather. Between Newcastle College, Gateshead College, Newcastle University and Northumbria University the city has a huge student population. The nightlife is very good, the facilities and venues around town are fantastic, and there are loads of pubs, cafés or restaurants for a chat over food or coffee. I have friends at other universities around the country and they all wish they had stayed in Newcastle.

In what ways do you think your degree at Newcastle College University Centre has prepared you for employment?

Studying at the University Centre has boosted my confidence in myself and in my ability as a chef. I’ve become assured enough to apply for jobs that I really want and dream about getting, instead of hesitating in case I was passed over. The training and support I've received at Newcastle College University Centre has helped teach me to never hold myself back from going for my goals.

What are your plans after you graduate?

Right now, my plan after graduation is to find full-time work as a chef. While I’m working, I plan to save up money and then move to Australia. I'll work there for ten to fifteen years, eventually gaining enough experience to open my own Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant Down Under. So yeah, no pressure!

What advice would you give to anyone thinking about Steppin’ Up to a degree at Newcastle College University Centre

Do it! Never be scared of the coursework or the theory – you get used to it! Obviously, the degree is much more advanced than Level 2 or Level 3, but there is so much support available from lecturers and Student Services that you can hone your skills in any areas you want. Studying at the University Centre also gives you a strong foundation for the future, since they help you build the CV, portfolio and professional skillset that are vital to building your dream career.

Describe your student experience in three words.

Challenging. Rewarding. Experiences.

What are your top 5 tips for Steppin’ Up at Newcastle College?

Be prepared

Practice your Harvard referencing

Attend your classes! – a lot of people on this course don’t turn up and then think ‘what do I do’?

Utilise all the courses

Remember teachers are actually there to help you.