Love cooking and thinking about studying Hospitality & Catering at College? We caught up with Hospitality & Catering Curriculum Manager JJ Keevey, to find out more about his journey from a chef in South Africa to MidKent College lecturer...

Please can you share a little about your career in hospitality before you became a tutor and any courses you may have taken - where did you work?

After matriculating secondary school in 1995, I worked as a pizza maker and barman until I was hired as a trainee restaurant manager of a large steak house in South Africa. Within a two years, I was promoted to general manager. I moved to England in 1999 for two years where I completed my GNVQ Level 3 and Advanced National Traineeship. Returning to South Africa, after my visa expired, I returned to restaurant management due to a shortage of chef jobs in South Africa. I accepted a position as executive chef in a busy authentic Italian restaurant before returning to England on a work permit. After management and relief chef positions, I started working in an busy Spanish restaurant in Bluewater. I was hired at MidKent College as sickness cover in 2008 (City Way Campus) and stayed on as a sessional lecturer to this day.

What inspired you to teach?

The main reason for considering teaching was firstly for family reasons. I wanted to have more quality time with my family and the long hours in restaurants and unsociable hours got me thinking about teaching. I had trained a very large amount of staff over the years and realised that I enjoyed it immensely. I decided to start studying to see if was a good fit. After the first few classes, I was hooked.

How do you keep up to date with the latest techniques and ideas in professional cookery?

I have worked in the trade during summer holidays, usually in North Wales or Oxfordshire in high accolated restaurants and hotels. I also cook and plan functions, usually for charities at my local sports association.

How does your background as a professional chef impact your teaching?

I believe that having a varied and comprehensive experience is very important to teaching students. In most cases, students are so hungry to learn and lap up all the knowledge on offer. The more we as tutors can teach, the better we prepare them for their future career. With being trained in not only French cuisine, but also African and Mediterranean, amongst others, I have the breadth of knowledge and experience to further stretch my students. As I am fully trained and experienced in kitchen and restaurant positions, I can offer advice and can guide students in all aspects of their employment.

What do you love most about teaching?

The most rewarding thing about teaching, to me is when a student with low confidence or self-esteem does much better than was expected in a practical exam, especially when they have struggled to gain a better grade for a long period of time. The passion and exhilaration on their face is absolutely priceless. I often go home after such an occurrence and think, “This is why I teach.”

Where can I study Hospitality & Catering courses near me? Find out more about our study programmes, available at our Medway and Maidstone campuses!