Serving up the right support for the hospitality sector

Two leading lights of the local catering industry have praised Harrogate College for helping them launch their careers.

Chef Callum Bowmer and restaurant and hotel general manager Neil Mendoza have both gone on to great things since training with the college.

Neil Mendoza, who studied management and hospitality courses from 2008 to 2010, went on to fill several senior positions for celebrity chef Marcus Wareing’s restaurants, including MARCUS at The Berkeley Hotel in London.

Neil is now back in Harrogate where he is General Manager at The Studley Hotel and Orchid Restaurant.

Callum, meanwhile, who was named Chef of the Year at the Harrogate Hospitality and Tourism Awards 2022, did an apprenticeship with the college in 2011. He is now Head Chef of the 3AA Rosette Horto Restaurant, at Rudding Park.

Both agree that their time at college provided a crucial, and rewarding, route into the industry.

A fantastic experience with great tutors

Neil said: “It was a fantastic experience as it allowed me to learn more about the sector and led me to exactly where I am today.

“I was already working part-time in a restaurant where my dad was a chef. The course made me understand the industry much better and helped me decide that this is the career I’d like to pursue.”

Callum said: “My time at college was fun, progressive and useful. I had two great tutors in Mark Wilkinson, who’s no longer with the college, and Karina Dodsworth.

“I believe I showed passion and respect so they invested their time in me. I did day-release and had a session with Mark where we covered all the skills we needed, from butchery to pastry.

“I even remember going to London with a small team to do a sushi demonstration at Excel Arena, at a WorldSkills competition, which was fantastic. A sushi chef had come to train us months beforehand, and gave us the skills we needed.”

The college’s hospitality team has been working hard over the past year to strengthen its support for local businesses. Those efforts have included reaching out, through the Harrogate College Employers’ Network, to find out exactly what skills firms need.

They were also pleased to welcome Neil earlier this year, when he came in to college to deliver an inspirational talk to students.

Targeted help for the local industry

The hospitality sector was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, due to repeated lockdowns which shook consumer confidence and led to the loss of many skilled employees.

Harrogate College’s Cultural, Contemporary and Heritage Studies Programme Manager, Jason Parry, said: “The fantastic success of former students like Callum and Neil is an inspiration to us all, and shows what can be achieved. We are delighted to have played a part in that success.

“We have been working closely with many local hospitality businesses over the past year as part of our efforts to help the district recover from Covid-19.

“That work has included talking directly to employers about what they need from new employees and then customising our training to ensure it delivers.

“Our themed dining nights have also been part of that, and have given our students some invaluable experience of working in a fast-paced restaurant. We have also been taking them on fact-finding trips, to places like Rudding Park, to show them best-practice and to help them gain an understanding of how businesses operate.

“It is all about ensuring that they leave here with a skillset that will prove invaluable to our local hotels, restaurants, cafes and bars – and so enable them to thrive in the industry.”

The value of apprenticeships, hard work and patience

Neil and Callum, meanwhile, are happy to share some tips with aspiring hospitality professionals. Callum said: “You have to be happy in your work, so for me being a chef is great because that’s what I love to do.

“I would definitely recommend considering an apprenticeship, as you will learn so much more with the combination of a good workplace and a great college course. Also, question everything and if you don’t know something, ask – there’s no such thing as a silly question.

“It’s also vital to demonstrate a great work ethic; be on time, be eager, be passionate, be driven, be clean and work hard. Good luck!”

Neil added: “I am loving every bit of my current role, especially because I am also now back in Harrogate after living and working in London for a decade to elevate my career.

“To all the aspiring young chefs, waiters and other hospitality professionals, I would say: focus on the positives and learn from your mistakes, as this will define who you are in the industry and only make you better.

“It may be a long journey to where you want to be, but patience is key and working hard will get you there.”Click here for more details on the college’s hospitality and catering courses. More information on apprenticeships, meanwhile, can be found here.

Design-a-menu project hailed as a great example of teamwork

‘A really successful collaboration’.

That’s the tasty verdict on a design-the-menu project that Harrogate College has just completed for RHS Garden Harlow Carr.

Hospitality students were asked to create a hypothetical menu, with a focus on sustainability, for the new café Harlow Carr is creating at the former Harrogate Arms pub.

The challenge involved the students splitting into sub-teams to come up with different ideas. Their completed menus ended up featuring everything from vegetable lasagne to an eggs Benedict and smoothie combo, along with some inventive twists on traditional family favourites.

Each sub-group had to then explain their concepts, and provide samples of their dishes for tasting, during an end-of-project presentation.

The Harlow Carr team were impressed with the results, and gave positive feedback across the board.

Praise for thoughtful, well-planned and sustainability-focused ideas

Commenting on a presentation by students Ellena, Chris and Amber, they said:The vegetable lasagne and side salad looked very colourful and fresh. It was excellently presented and would appeal to both adults and children alike.

“The presentation was extremely thorough and well planned. There was excellent consideration given to sourcing local food and reducing the carbon footprint.

“Their menu choice appealed to us as they had considered our audience and their needs. They provided a menu that created the option of eating in or ‘taking out’, which customers would appreciate the flexibility.

“Consideration was also given to the ‘take-out’ packaging providing ethical choices, for example through using beeswax wraps.”

The project proved a hit with the students too, who enjoyed a fact-finding trip to the gardens. They were then given a ‘sowing and growing’ masterclass – using planters built at the college – by an RHS Harlow Carr gardener, who visited several times.

Harrogate College, which is working towards becoming net zero carbon by 2030, has made sustainability one of its key goals and provides carbon literacy training to students and staff.

A great chance to grow and develop

In her report, Professional Cookery student Ellena Harrison-Wood described how she relished the chance to come up with environmentally-friendly solutions as part of her team’s pitch.

She said: “Doing this project massively helped me personally grow and develop a lot of skills, including my *STEM 7 skills. 

“We were very conscious of our carbon footprint and making it as small as possible. Part of our plan was to use local businesses in Harrogate to really cut down on the travel of our ingredients, and to give back to the local community. “

Harrogate College’s Cultural, Contemporary and Heritage Studies Programme Manager, Jason Parry, added: “It has been a really successful collaborative project and the students have taken a lot from it.

“They did a great job, and we’re already talking to Harlow Carr about teaming up again soon.”

Students, staff and visitors, meanwhile, will be able to sample some of the vegetables and herbs that the students have been growing when the Bistro holds a Street Food Festival on Thursday 30 June.

The event – which will include entertainment – runs from 6pm to 8.30pm and costs £15, which gives diners five tickets to spend at food and drink stalls. 

More details on our hospitality courses can be found here.

*STEM 7 refers to the core skills that underpin STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects and are vital in all kinds of jobs. Those are: creative thinking, data-driven decisions, collaboration, communication, flexibility, intellectual curiosity and problem solving.

Cookery students put skills to good use for Irish-themed evening

Professional Cookery students got a chance to hone their fish preparation skills while preparing a themed menu for St Patrick’s Day.

The Harrogate College students, who recently completed a unit focused on preparing and cooking fish, had to produce a four course meal for paying visitors at the March event.

The dishes they created were inspired by the theme of the Irish Coast. They included salmon pate (served with pickled cucumber and Guinness and treacle soda bread) and cod in white wine and chive sauce, with a traditional lamb stew also prepared as an alternative.

As always on dining nights, the college’s canteen area was transformed into a busy restaurant which, on this occasion, served about 40 guests.

A great success

Harrogate College’s Cultural, Contemporary and Heritage Studies Programme Manager, Jason Parry, said: “The evening put the students’ skills to the test and was a great success.

“The progress they have made was clear for all to see.”

A Professional Cookery student at Harrogate College preparing fish
A Professional Cookery student at Harrogate College preparing fish

The cookery students also recently enjoyed a trip to Leeds city centre where they were given a hotel tour, visited the Corn Exchange, sampled some dishes at Leeds Trinity, and took a ride on a water taxi.

After sampling the food at Trinity Kitchen the group took part in a challenge that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the BBC’s The Apprentice.

Based at Kirkgate Market, the students were divided into teams that had to gather specific information about seafood and meat, and find the most unusual fruit and vegetables.

The Leeds visit was arranged as a fun-focused reward for the students following months of hard work. 

Professional Cookery student Ellena Harrison-Wood said: “The Leeds trip was an amazing experience for us and the other hospitality students that came along.

“At the market we were shown the importance of shopping locally, and how important community cohesion is when it comes to the hospitality sector and good food in general.

“As for the Saint Patrick’s night meal, the customers had a great time and said we had improved massively since our first Italian night, last year.”

The college, which runs a range of hospitality and professional cookery courses, has been working closely with local businesses to help the sector recover from the impact of the pandemic.

Inspirational hotel tour for hospitality students

Hospitality students from Harrogate College have enjoyed an educational tour of Rudding Park.

Fifteen hospitality students were guided around the luxury hotel, and given an insight into its catering facilities and procedures, by Chef Consultant Stephanie Moon.

The March trip was organised to prepare the students, who have all secured roles with a variety of local employers, for a work experience week while enriching their studies.

Perfect preparation for work

Harrogate College’s Cultural, Contemporary and Heritage Studies Programme Manager, Jason Parry, said: “This was a great experience for our students, and good preparation for their work placements.

“They were given a welcome toast and then, as part of the guided tour by Stephanie, shown various suites including the impressive ‘home cinema’ room.

“We were also shown around the multiple kitchen and food production areas which are used to produce food for the entire site. These led to the amazing kitchen gardens where we saw a variety of food being grown to sustain the kitchens – and a few of our more adventurous students tried some of the more unusual plants!”

A resilient industry

Harrogate College, which runs a range of hospitality and professional cookery courses,  has been working closely with local businesses to help the sector recover from the impact of the pandemic and repeated lockdowns.

That effort has been strengthened through  the creation of the Harrogate College Employers’ Network, which launched in 2021.

So the visiting students and staff were pleased to hear encouraging news on that front from Rudding Park’s leadership team.

Jason added: “We finished the tour with some inspirational talks by key members of the management team, who shared their love for the industry and the opportunities it can provide.

“They also shared their post-Covid plan for recruiting and retaining staff, which really shows how the industry can meet the current needs of the employees’ market. This is a real win for our students and the industry, showing its post-pandemic resilience.”

Harrogate students lay on a festive feast

Hospitality students at Harrogate have rounded off the year by serving up a European inspired Christmas feast to members of the public.

The Christmas around Europe gourmet evening took place at Harrogate College on Thursday 9 December when guests were treated to a three course meal featuring dishes based on festive continental classics.

The event attracted nearly 60 people and saw the college’s regular canteen area transformed into a fully operational restaurant.

An invaluable learning experience

Harrogate College’s Cultural, Contemporary and Heritage Studies Programme Manager, Jason Parry, said: “The evening put the learners through their paces, catering to over 50 with a three course meal.

“The students had the opportunity to experience how it felt working as part of a team and in a busy restaurant environment.

“They battled through confidence issues and worked really hard to perform well, and this was reflected in the customer feedback. The evening was a great success.”

The college’s hospitality students also recently enjoyed a fact-finding tour of the Grand Hotel, in York, as part of an enrichment day that included a walk along the city’s historic walls.

A grand day out in York

Mr Parry added: “The hotel tour was really well put together by the staff.

“We had some talks from key employees and learnt how the business, which runs its own amazing cookery school, diversified after Covid-19 as well as how it is performing now.

“Following a tour of the suites and key features of the hotel we had a mocktail master class, which was a lot of fun for the students.

“We then went for a walk on the wall until we got to the centre of York, where the students had some free time to explore the Christmas market, before all going for a meal at Bella Italia – which linked in to the students’ previous unit on pasta.”

Mocktail making at the Grand Hotel, York

The first event of 2022 for Harrogate College’s restaurant will be a food and wine pairing evening, which representatives from the wine industry are being encouraged to attend, on Thursday 10 February.

The hospitality students will produce five light courses for the event, which is designed to teach students and guests about how the right combinations of food and wine can enhance the dining experience. The evening will include tasting notes, a tasting menu, and specialist speakers.

For more details about hospitality and catering courses at the college visit

Sustainability is on the menu

Students from Harrogate College are using their culinary and creative skills to come up with a new, sustainable menu for RHS Garden Harlow Carr.

Hospitality students have been asked to devise a hypothetical fresh bill of fare and concept for a new café that is being created by converting the former Harrogate Arms pub.

Harlow Carr, which owns the Grade II Listed property, grows plenty of fresh produce which will feature prominently in the new establishment’s dishes. 

The Harrogate College group, who are being led by seven Level 2 Professional Cookery students, recently visited the site to be briefed on their task. They also enjoyed a tour of the grounds, plus a chance to try their hand at potting.

An exciting collaboration that reflects our values

The initiative represents the start of a closer partnership between the college and Harlow Carr, who worked collaboratively to find the right project.

Harrogate College’s Cultural, Contemporary and Heritage Studies Programme Manager, Jason Parry, said: “This is an exciting project that has a focus on sustainability and working with the produce grown on the site.

“It ticks so many boxes for us in terms of the college’s values and aspirations – sustainability, ‘food to fork’, carbon reduction and seasonality – along with menu and service design, work experience and responding to a client brief.”

Fresh produce at RHS Garden Harlow Carr

Pitching for success

He added: “The project will be followed up throughout the year with Harlow Carr, who will do a progress check with the students in January.

“Ultimately it will end up with the students giving a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitch to Harlow Carr staff, with small groups presenting their ideas around the menu, and the service, and showing how they have worked to meet the client’s brief.”

Harrogate College, as part of its wider drive to become a centre of green excellence, recently launched a Sustainability Pledge which sets out its commitment to becoming net zero carbon by 2030.

For more details on hospitality courses at the college click here