Alumni Spotlight: Scott Perkins
Scott is a recent graduate of the BA International Culinary Arts Management course, who now works for the University passing on his knowledge to the next generation of budding cordon bleu chefs.
He has also made it through to the semi-finals of the Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year Award and has been recently involved in the Culinary Theatre Evenings at the University's Pillars Restaurant.
Why did you decide to study culinary arts, and why choose UWL?
I first decided to study a culinary arts degree here when I was 22, but then I changed my mind and went to work for Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley. Whilst I was there I met some people who were studying at the University part time and they recommended that I did the course. My father was also a chef – he studied here when it was Thames Valley University.
He told me that the lecturers were fully supportive and that I would see a side of the industry that I wouldn’t see just working in restaurants, and also understand the business better. So I took it upon myself to apply for the Culinary Arts Management degree and studied part time, graduating in 2016.
I really enjoyed it and learnt a huge amount, as well as learning a lot about myself – such as what I could do, what I couldn’t do and what I needed to learn. The course really suited me for where I was in my career at the time.
You’ve already mentioned your father being a chef, is that who inspired you?
Yes, although my whole family come from a culinary background. My mother’s father had a restaurant on the Isle of Wight, and then he became one of the Island’s only fruit and veg suppliers. My father’s job as a chef took us to many different places as I was growing up, so I was always in kitchens with him.
I wasn’t the best behaved at school – I admit that, and at half term and in school holidays my mum would send me to work with my father doing the washing up, so I got the bug for it at an early age. When I was about 16 or 17 I decided that the career path for me was to be a chef.
What does your current role at the University involve?
This year I have been a Chef Trainer at the Feast restaurant and at Pillars – the fine dining restaurant. It is a part operations, part lecturing role, which I enjoy very much.
The opportunity to give something back to the industry is very satisfying – there is a great bunch of young talent at this university right now and I enjoy being able to inspire them and push them in the right direction and provide them with the kind of industry information I have learnt myself. I hope to move into full time lecturing some time soon.
Can you describe the Culinary Theatre Evenings taking place at Pillars Restaurant?
They are a new project from the Hospitality team, running on a Thursday and Friday night until the end of the month. We give guests a four course set dinner menu with a different theme each time. For example, we started off with a Spring to Summer theme. We work with the students to come up with a menu which showcases what we can produce as a team.
The theatre process works by us having TV screens around the restaurant whilst you are dining. We demonstrate the cooking process on the TVs, and then the dishes are brought out. It provides a unique experience for the customer and I believe it takes Pillars to another level. The feedback from regular diners has been great, and it has also attracted new customers. I'm not aware of any other restaurant in the area that does this.
Pillars is more than just a restaurant, can you also tell us about your Wednesday Cookery School?
Chef Jonathon Bowers provides a cooking demonstration and guests learn how to prepare and cook a three course lunch. The dishes change each week, depending on the season and what produce we can get in. The feedback has been fantastic.
Many of the participants have also been customers of ours and they get to experience cooking some of the dishes they have eaten at Pillars, or some that they might eat in the future. It's been great to have them come in and see what we do in the kitchen. Right now there is a great buzz around Pillars.
Congratulations on reaching the semi-final of the Craft Guild of Chefs National Chef of the Year Award! How does it feel to be shortlisted?
For me, making the semi-final was a big achievement. It has been one of my career goals and was actually something I talked about in my interview when I came here. It’s a great achievement to be representing the University of West London – I would not have been able to get this far without the support from the academics and staff here.
They have all supported me in my entry and given up their time to help. I think if I can get through to the final it will show what the University can offer to aspiring young chefs. By studying here I have learnt how to keep to the brief and analyse it properly. I believe that my paper entry was very detailed and specific to what they wanted, and my degree helped with that. The competition is more than just the cooking, it’s also about understanding your target audience.
Can you share with us the competition so far and judging process?
The brief this year was to create a three course lunch menu with a vegetarian starter, a main course using duck and cherries, and a dessert of a classic tart with fresh fruit. At the semi-final I will cook my meal for the judges – who include such luminaries as Phil Howard, Clare Smyth and Sat Baines. It is great to represent the University and to show the judges what we can do. The semi-final takes place on 20 June at Le Cordon Bleu.
I have been practising non-stop for the last four weeks, I don’t think I ever want to see another duck or custard tart again! My dishes are a parsley pannacotta with asparagus and peas, Aylesbury duck – for which I am making a choux farci (a classic confit duck leg wrapped in cabbage), a leg boudin (a type of sausage) with a classic cherry puree.
For dessert, a classic custard tart with fresh strawberries poached in elderflower syrup, with elderflower granola and elderflower orange cream. The elderflowers have been sourced locally, from nearby Ealing Common.
If you could cook for any one person, who would that be?
Probably my granddad. He passed away 10 years ago and he never got to see what I have achieved now. He was a big inspiration for me and also for my family.
And finally, after a night out with your friends would you ever consider eating a kebab?
I love a good kebab actually – a chicken and lamb mix with mayonnaise and chilli sauce, but my favourite fast food is actually Burger King! All food is great, I don’t have any pretensions. I haven’t had a kebab in ages though, thinking about it I might even have one tonight.