Paignton seafood academy's recipe for success
SOUTH Devon should become the seafood capital of Britain, with outstanding culinary expertise to match the outstanding quality of its catches.
Launching a new training academy at South Devon College aimed at developing the top seafood chefs of the future, restaurateur Mitch Tonks said the area can already boast the best seafood in the world.
Brixham-based Mitch, who has three restaurants in Dartmouth and Bristol, including the Seahorse and Rockfish Seafood and Chips restaurants, said he had eaten seafood all round the world and was convinced of the quality of local catches, including Elberry mussels, bass, mackerel and Devon crab.
Mitch, whose Seahorse was recently named as the best seafood restaurant in the Which Good Food 2013 guide, said: "We are surrounded by the best seafood in the country, the very best. One of my goals is to promote the South West as Britain's seafood coast, between here and Cornwall. In my mind Brixham and the area around Dartmouth is the capital. It would be wonderful if people would come to the area for the joy of eating our seafood.
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"A big challenge is finding the chefs of the future. The academy is all about developing people who really understand seafood, it's something which takes a lifetime."
He said they planned to take students out of the classroom, to sea with local fishermen and to fish markets and to fish processors and suppliers as well as involving some of the UK's other top seafood chefs to lecture with him at the academy.
Mitch added he had been impressed to learn of the experience and skills of the college staff who have worked for top restaurants like the London Ritz and the Savoy.
"The college has a wonderful facility with a really fantastic team driving it," he said. "I hope I can bring a current industry perspective to the training so we can match the skills the students learn to the needs of businesses."
College principal Stephen Criddle said: "It's great to see how many students at the college want to be at the highest level, becoming a top level chef or running front of house or setting up their own businesses.
"This initiative will really take this forward, to achieve the high standards which we are totally committed to and I know Mitch Tonks is.
"It is fantastic to have such a high achiever in our local community who is willing to give time to our students."
He cited the college's long track record of industry links and student success, and partnerships with events and businesses like Fishstock, Morehampstead Food Festivals, Dartington and the Royal Castle in Dartmouth.
"The Junior Chef Academy and 14-16 schools' programme has developed a pipeline of young people who are passionate about cooking. With over 90 apprentices, many are experiencing the taste for both business and education — and loving it," he said.
More than 50 guests attended the launch of the Mitch Tonks Seafood Academy the brainchild of Mitch Tonks, Adele Dawson college head of business advantage, construction and hospitality and Dave Galpin, head of hospitality and tourism.