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  • Nick Lander
Written by
  • Nick Lander
10 Mar 2002

In a move intended to cement London's position as the city for cosmopolitan cooking, to create stronger ties with the city's Chinese community and to reflect the broad cultural origins of his 20,000 students, Richard Williams, principal of Westminster Kingsway College and Lord Mayor Harvey Marshall formally opened the Chinese Chefs School on the second floor of the college in Vincent Square, Victoria, which boasts TV chef Jamie Oliver amongst its illustrious alumni.

The first purpose of the School is to train more chefs in the increasingly popular discipline of Chinese cooking as the growing number of restaurateurs around the UK seek a growing number of suitably qualified chefs.

Now under the experienced eyes of Norman Fu, chef/lecturer for Chinese cookery, up to 14 students at a time train in a kitchen, which cost over £250,000, and incorporates two seven-wok-burner ranges - where the gas is controlled by the chef's knees leaving both hands free for cooking; a steamer for the long process of cooking Peking duck; and two barbecues to provide the accompanying grilled dishes.

Williams was quick to acknowledge that the School's aims were broader than purely commercial reflecting the fact that over 50 per cent of the students define their ethnicity as other than white, coming from over 50 nationalities with over 150 mother tongues. The School was the result of a successful cross-cultural collaboration with Chinese restaurateur Christine Yau of Y Ming restaurant, Soho, in particular, and the support of London's Chinese community in general.

There are plans for separate Caribbean, Indian and Asian cookery schools but one clue to the popularity of the Chinese cookery courses is the presence next to the woks of a tandoori oven, usually found in Indian restaurants. It transpires that many of London's Indian restaurateurs, particularly those with busy takeaway sections, are now finding that cooking certain Indian dishes in Chinese woks produces speedier and equally satisfactory results than using more traditional Indian equipment.