College catering: students, staff and the ethics of what we eat

Bradford College runs a number of catering and hospitality courses: they are practical and popular, with numbers rising rapidly both in further and higher education.

Our catering staff and students also run two restaurants and a café on the College campus, open to everyone. They provide catering for events of all sizes, mostly in the College. This gives the students some great hands-on experience, and helps generate some revenue for the catering courses.

IMG_1127Aidan James (pictured above) is the College’s Restaurant Manager and Trainer. He has a degree and MPhil in catering management, and worked in the food and beverage industry before joining the College seven years ago to teach catering and manage our restaurants and cafes. He talked to me about the ethical issues that the catering team faces.

“It’s an exciting time,” Aidan says. “When our new £50 million eco-friendly building opens in September 2014, the main restaurant and cafeteria will be in the central entrance area, really well placed to welcome people in, and with lovely views of the new green area outside.” At the same time, Aidan explains, the additional College cafes which are currently run by an external contractor will all become College-run, giving the students more opportunities for valuable work experience and hopefully generating income for the College.

Food supply
Aidan says that the catering team have to balance a number of factors when sourcing food. “We want to stay local, so we lessen the fuel miles and help support local employment and business. We need value for money, so we can keep costs down for the College and our customers. And we want quality.

“So we tend to get our fresh fruit and veg from the wholesale market in St James’s, off Wakefield Road. Our meat comes in part from a local supplier, and from Sykes House Farm which provides high quality and is supportive to our students, who can visit their butchery department and slaughter house.”

Dry goods, wines and spirits mostly come from a large national company with a local depot, because of the good prices. “However, we are always reviewing this,” Aidan adds. “And we are about to switch to Fair Trade tea and coffee, and that will come from a Bradford company.”

Aidan explains that there are real risks in the food trade. “They include poor quality, passing off and adulterated food. So we want the students to be aware of the positive choices that can be made, and of the risks you need to be alert to. High standards are key. Once we are running all the College food and refreshment outlets we will have more buying clout, which will help us get quality produce at a reasonable price.

Grow your own
“The other area we hope to expand is getting the students and staff involved in growing food. We already have a small allotment, but with the new building there will be new opportunities. And we are next door to the University of Bradford which is doing a great job in this respect, so we hope to strengthen our links.”

Healthy eating and dietary requirements
“Eating healthy food is important – and new information and requirements are always emerging,” Aidan says. “This summer we’ve consulted with our customers who have special dieteray requirements to find out how we can better meet their needs.” The team are introducing a more flexible menu as a result. They are also looking at possibly having two main teaching kitchens in the new building, one halal and one non-halal.

“It’s a hard juggling act getting the menu right! In addition to ensuring meals are healthy and meet particular needs, we want to cover the curriculum, provide affordable food, be ethical, and minimise waste.”

Experience and enrichment
Aidan finishes by saying that another important goal is to give the students experience that widen their horizons. “We find opportunities for our students to meet the suppliers – most recently we went to visit a rhubarb farm in Tong, he says. “Also, the College is one of the main sponsors of the annual World Curry Festival, and our students volunteer to help run this each year as well as take part as contestants.” There has been a ‘food not waste‘ campaign, and now a team of staff and students provides an annual staff barbecue.

Aidan (at the back on the right) with catering students and staff.

Aidan (at the back on the right) with catering students and staff.

Finally, the team recently addressed the growing work load by taking on two catering apprentices, building in a range of work experience and training. They are ready for expansion!

Dramatically good: the ethics of performing arts in further and higher education

Damien O’Keeffe is Curriculum Team Leader for Media, Music and Performing Arts at Bradford  College, where he lectures in performing arts to further and higher education students.

Damien O'Keeffe (left) in the PaperZoo production of 1984, with former Bradford College student Ben Eagle, and John Hurt.

Damien O’Keeffe (left) in the PaperZoo production of 1984, with former Bradford College student Ben Eagle, and John Hurt. Ben is now studying at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

Damien started by outlining two main strands to the ethical debate concerning performance:

“There’s what we put out and our responsibilities as artists and communicators – because live performance is very immediate and visceral. And from a teaching point of view, we have to consider the material that we offer to our students, how we guide them in what they want to express.”

Creating a safe space
One of the key things is to create a safe environment for students and staff. “A rehearsal studio has to be a space where you can explore without embarrassment,” Damien explains.

The staff increasingly find that young people want to create drama that explores big issues such as body image, sexuality, addiction, family difficulties. “All drama is conflict,” Damien says. “The ancient Greeks knew that – and it means that drama can be a place where you can explore things that are happening in the world that you don’t understand or are frightened of. However, less experienced students sometimes act out very personal conflicts, and this can make them vulnerable.”

Expletives deleted (sometimes)
It also means that the lecturers have to be prepared to challenge things that are potentially offensive or difficult. “This is not as censorship,” Damien explains. “It is about enabling students to understand the impact of how they express things. If you swear all the time, it becomes meaningless – yet a well-placed expletive used carefully has major power.” The students are given a short history of major media landmarks in the use of obscene language, and they are introduced to some Shakespearean insults. “We aim to enrich vocabulary and improve the effectiveness of the drama our students create.”

The YouTube effect
Up to a few years ago, drama students would only be seen when they put on a live performance. There might be the occasional video or audio recording, not easily available. Damien and I discussed the fact that now a drama student can go home, put themselves on YouTube and broadcast to the world.

“We have to cover netiquette on all our courses,” Damien explains. “If you put your work out there, you must expect criticism, and it’s on the record. We don’t want to curtail freedom of expression or the embracing of new technologies. That can be good: casting directors, other performers and professionals may see what you do, and it can lead to good things. But the whole population can see it and you have to be careful about that.”

The College’s drama courses also explore self-presentation as a way of empowering the students. “They need the space to be themselves but also they need to understand that your ‘self’ changes according to the space that you are in. We teach students how to centre and be strong in themselves. This is the kind of thing that can help you throughout your life, whether you have a career in drama or not.”

The drama curriculum – a fine judgement
The courses take on a wide variety of students – some have been drama enthusiasts for years, taking part in lots of performances. Others have had almost no experience of theatre.

“We try to give students what they need rather than what they want,” Damien says. “It’s a fine judgement; you don’t want a hidden or assumed curriculum. It would be easy to let the students carry on doing what they know and like – ‘Bugsy Malone’, ‘Grease’, ’The Little Shop of Horrors’ and so on. So we give them new challenges – anything from ancient Greek drama to contemporary playwrights.

“The studio is a way to explore difficult things, but there is so much that is dangerous in the world – the studio is also a place where the students can discover beauty, redemption and light because that is what is often missing from the students’ lives. All this makes teaching drama a wonderful job.”

Damien in rehearsal for the summer 2013 production of Hard Times.

Damien in rehearsal for ‘Hard Times’.

Damien is from Bradford. He went to local schools, where two inspirational teachers gave him and many other young people a passion for drama and the opportunity to take part in it. He studied drama and media studies at Manchester College, and then gained a degree in performing arts from Middlesex University. He has worked as an actor, and in theatre education outreach at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and Leicester Haymarket Theatre. He is a founder member of PaperZoo, a theatre company set up and run by teachers and students.

Useful links
Bradford College students: Oh What a Lovely War, 13 and 14 June 2013.
PZ LogoPaperZoo’s next production: Hard Times, showing in Leeds, Bradford, Saltaire, Otley, Settle, Halifax and Bury.
Damien’s personal blog: Flawed Monkey
Photo: Damien in a performance of ‘Ruffian on the Stair’ at Bradford College’s Yorkshire Craft Centre, with Julia O’Keeffe.
Interview and text: Ruth Wilson, Bradford College

Young entrepreneurs at Bradford College go ethical and launch a student business start up society

After reading Khosro’s article about teaching business ethics, I decided to find out about teaching business ethics in practice. Our very dynamic Students Union President Piers Telemacque told me about an Enterprise and Entrepreneurship class, and I went along for a visit.

This class is doing something special: each student has to set up and run a business, from scratch. It’s a new EdExcel BTEC Level 3 National Diploma, and some 25 Further Education students are taking part this year. As they research and plan their businesses they have to consider their personal values and how those translate into business values, and they have to write an ethics policy.

Apparently its got the class thinking. Is profit more important than anything else in business? Is it fair to tax small enterprises? The students are drawing up plans that include employment without discrimination, fair pricing and environmental awareness.

In addition, this class has done something collectively that is both novel and a great idea. They have set up a Bradford College Enterprise Society as part of the Students Union. They aim to get enterprising students together to run fundraising events (some have already taken place, including for charity). They are looking for (and getting) outside sponsorship. And they are applying for a grant of £400 from the Students Union. Once this is secured they will run a Dragons Den, giving £10 start up money to small student enterprises. The money is paid back with interest so other enterprises can apply for start up support. What a brilliant plan!

I met three founding members of the Society: Jon (Secretary), Tashinga (Vice Chair) and Ben (Treasurer). They each have a small business in the pipieline. Tashinga and his friend Danny have launched a local marketing service, offering virtual marketing and leaflets across the College and neighbouring university. Ben is going to help a College teacher market a ‘cave bus’ that tours local schools giving them the experience of pot holing.

Jon and Harrison are running a tuck shop at the College gates, because students want sweets but don’t have time to go out to the local shops (sweets are not on offer at our various excellent cafes). I asked about the ethics of that – are sweets good for you? They said, cleverly I thought, possibly not but the profit they make will be able to fund other enterprises and ethical projects.

The lecturer on the course is Noel Clayton. He studied at Bradford College, and he’s been an FE lecturer here since 1983. A decent innings! “This is a wholly new course,” he says, “and it’s great to get in with young people right at the basics of setting up a business. When I look around, I see a lot that is wrong or unfair in the world of business, and it feels good to help students think about that. I have always admired ordinary people who stand up to powerful forces, and setting up a small business is in a way doing just that.”

“In life, you have to think about what you’ve done, and whether you’ll be happy with it in the future,” he adds. “In the midst of a recession, this course is showing that students can have lots of creativity and they can achieve good things.”

Check out the student posters and find Neil in this photo.