Scotland’s National Chef goes back to School

Gary Maclean, Executive Chef at City of Glasgow College, returned to the classroom when he spent the day teaching at Ardrossan Academy in Ayrshire.

The MasterChef: The Professionals winner was invited by a former pupil who is now home economics teacher at the school. Erin Walker graduated from City of Glasgow College in 2017 with an HND in professional cookery, and took up her role at the school last year.

Gary took Erin’s class for a skills day working alongside Erin to demonstrate Cullen skink and Glasgow macaroons. He then showed the class how to make sausage risotto and coconut tart, which the pupils then cooked for themselves. 

Becoming a home economics teacher has been a goal and dream of Erin’s since her fifth year of school.

“After spending eight years at college and university I’m proud to have secured, straight from university, a fulltime teaching job in the school where I did a placement as a student,” said Erin.

“Home economics is so important for young people as everyone needs to learn to cook and look after themselves. It is also important to gain a better understanding of the provenance of our food. Many people are disconnected from where food comes from, and the process it goes through before reaching their plate. Studying professional cookery at college stood me in great stead to be a home economics teacher, giving me experience, knowledge and confidence about food and the industry which I can pass on to my pupils,” explained Erin.

For Gary Maclean, a day back in the classroom offers the perfect opportunity to engage with the future generation of chefs.

“This is a brilliant industry to work in. There’s such a variety of roles and specialisms, you can work anywhere in the world, it literally is your oyster. Being able to step back into the classroom, to meet young people on the verge of making career choices, to help open their eyes to the opportunities available to them, is really exciting.

“As one of my former student’s, I was delighted to see Erin again and to work with her. To see how well she has done and to know that City of Glasgow College has played a role in her success, is very rewarding. I’ve gone into a few schools recently to do demonstrations and it’s fantastic the response you get each time.

“For me it’s about reaching and inspiring that next generation of professional cookery and hospitality specialists into a sector which is exciting and fulfilling, and which I love.”

For Erin, it was like old times. “It was so nice to work alongside Gary again. City of Glasgow College was simply amazing and I enjoyed my time there. I was well supported and given incredible opportunities. Gary was my tutor the year he won MasterChef and the events that followed were outstanding, I was lucky enough to be working alongside him for most of them.”