COLLEGES have collaborated with a world-famous chef to inspire a new generation of courageous cooks.

Heston Blumenthal and his Fat Duck Group have helped to revamp the hospitality and catering courses at Activate Learning, whose colleges include Banbury and Bicester College and City of Oxford College.

The celebrity chef and scientist, often compared to Willy Wonka for his wacky culinary creations, visited the latter yesterday to launch the new curriculum.

ALSO READ: Oxford primary school runs healthy packed lunch contest

He said: "I want this course to inspire its students to question everything like I did and make breakthroughs of their own.

"The kitchen is a great big playground for scientific and personal discovery, and I want our graduates to leave feeling like I do when I work - like a kid in a sweet shop."

The new course will encourage young cooks to take a more experimental and scientific approach, and will be rolled out from September.

Oxford Mail:

Pictures by Ed Nix

Mr Blumenthal's restaurant The Fat Duck, in Berkshire, is one of just five restaurants in the UK to boast three Michelin stars.

Speaking at the Oxford college's Oxpens campus, the chef criticised the government's 'stupidity' for making cookery classes optional at school.

He said in a culture in which we can order takeaways at the touch of a button, we have come to take food for granted.

He added: "The beauty of engaging with food and cooking is that you discover things about yourself that you didn't necessarily know.

"Cooking gives you the ability to imagine things that don't exist."

The industry is currently experiencing a skills shortage, and the college group hopes the new approach will help to attract more young talent.

ALSO READ: City of Oxford students open charity larder

Mr Blumenthal teamed up with exam board OCR in 2016, to redesign its food preparation and nutrition GCSE after a decline in uptake.

James Winters, head of creative strategy at the Fat Duck Group, said teaching about food and cookery has been 'sadly overlooked in our education system.'

Speaking to students, staff and press yesterday, he added: "As a result we have generations of young people with very little understanding or love [of food].

"Too often, young people are presented with barriers to their creativity.

"We want a course that lights a creative fuse in students' minds...we want to be able to put a sense of adventure into the very heart of a brand new course."

Students will get the chance to shadow top chefs at The Fat Duck Group’s headquarters, as part of the course, and take up placements in other partners across the Thames Valley.

Sally Dicketts, chief executive of Activate Learning, said: "Heston revolutionised the culinary world with his application of science to gastronomy.

"I believe his involvement with us will be equally revolutionary for the way catering is delivered within further education."

Oxford Mail:

Ms Dicketts said she too felt the education system had 'failed' many young learners, in making them shy away from risks.

She said Activate Learning's approach, however, is to encourage students to be curious and not be afraid to get things wrong.

ALSO READ: Oxford restaurant gets Michelin star as 2019 guide revealed

Bernard Grenville-Jones, group executive director for innovation and development at Activate Learning, said: "The hospitality and catering sector is crying out for new talent and this exciting partnership reflects the desire of the industry to work with education to close the skills gap and create a pipeline of talent with real-world experience.

"Working with an innovator of Heston Blumenthal’s calibre is truly unique, and we believe [students] will be given grounding and skills to become Michelin starred chefs and entrepreneurs one day."

Ms Dicketts agreed that nurturing young chefs' talents could see Oxfordshire become home to more Michelin-starred restaurants.

During his visit, Mr Blumenthal chatted to students in the kitchen and took part in experiments inspired by his expertise.