“We are so proud of our graduates. Maintaining links with them and following their career journey is essential for us on many levels, from programme design, placements, keeping abreast of trends and for the inspiration of current students. Our alumni are very much part of the success of each graduate that follows them and this year, our 25th anniversary year, is about celebrating this.”
Annette Sweeney, Culinary Arts Programme Coordinator at IT Tallaght, is in the midst of celebrating 25 years of culinary arts at the college. With the first graduates from the programme heading out into the world in 1994, the courses, staff pool and chefs belonging to the IT Tallaght community has grown significantly over the years.
The reasons for their success becomes clear once you speak to the course lecturers and past graduates, all of whom are aware of the importance of practical experience as part of their education.
Someone who has been there from the very beginning with Annette is Culinary Arts lecturer, Tom Meaney, who believes that the practical nature of their course sets them apart. He says:
“We believe that effective learning is learning by doing. All our programmes focus on using an applied approach to integrating the sciences into the kitchen. In the early days, we identified ourselves as an educational institute for culinary arts rather than a training institute for skills.”
He added: “The difference being that education focuses on the broader education of the person in the profession and the skills, knowledge and competency needed by them to carry out their role, as opposed to just being able to perform a skill.”
Commenting on the current chef shortage, Annette said: “With regard to the chef shortage, we believe that the student’s experience in the industry is key to whether they stay in the industry or not. For this reason, we hand-pick the establishments we place them in and we ensure the placement is structured. We know that this industry can be a great place to work and the joy of working as a chef can and should be experienced by all our students.”
Overall, the key to the success of the IT Tallaght programme comes from honouring “the chef’s experience in the industry”. She notes that at IT Tallaght, “we offer them a pathway for developing their career at a stage that best suits them, to further empower their knowledge, skills and competence.”
For Annette, she believes their community of graduates sets them apart, something which is echoed in the sentiments of many of the college’s past pupils.
“I’ve been working in kitchens since I was 18, and at 24, I decided to go to college and study professional cookery and build on the experience I was getting in the restaurant. I did the day release programme and it opened up a whole new side of cooking for me. I found the Food Science section the most interesting as you learn the “why’s” of cooking. Doing the course while still working full-time in the restaurant was a bonus and I’ve great memories of my time at IT Tallaght. The qualification was important for my career as I gained knowledge in areas I had no experience in.”
“I was delighted when I got accepted to IT Tallaght. I absolutely loved my time there, learned so much and got amazing opportunities. I don’t like chefs who slag off college because for me personally, that foundation was so important in my career and I don’t think I would be where I am if I didn’t have that experience. It’s a brilliant college and they’re all amazing lecturers. I’ve stayed in touch with Annette, Tom and Peter, who all came to the launch of Glovers Alley recently.”
“I was delighted so see the the first MSc in Applied Culinary Nutrition advertised in 2015. Despite the distance from home, I was able to attend lectures on this part time course and was among the first group to graduate in 2017. This type of course opens a world of opportunities to culinary arts students and I would like to thank IT Tallaght and in particular, Annette Sweeney for making it available.”
“Through its culinary programs, IT Tallaght has set up a new generation of Irish chefs in our booming hospitality sector. The guidance and interest put into us as students has equipped us to find our way in a challenging industry. The experience I gained in ITT has been invaluable.”
“I was there for two years and it was probably one of the best times of my life. I learned a lot from the staff there and they really look after the students. I still stay in touch with Annette and my classmates like Andy McFadden. One day hopefully, I’d love to be able to go back and teach there.”
Ruairi: “I found the lecturers very encouraging. Tom Meaney and Annette Sweeney in particular were great. It was a great foundation and very much a collegiate, there was no ‘them and us’.”
Cian: “I spent six years of my life there, a BA and then the Masters in Applied Culinary Science & Nutrition. Both really prepped me for the industry and the lecturers were very good.”
“I was in the first graduation class and I think the ethos of the lecturers to look after the students is brilliant. The course is geared towards practical training and getting you into the kitchen and that led me to send my son Lee there, he started last year.”
“It was a really good experience. The lectures were really good and a great base going into the professional kitchen. Tom and Annette, they’re excellent. We talk every other week and they’re really good for sending in students. There’s a massive chef shortage, so it’s great to know you can call a lecturer direct if you need a student and I think the good thing for Annette in particular, is that she stays very current with all the restaurants and stays in touch with her past students.”
“I completed my original chef training in IT Tallaght from 1993–1995. I had a wonderful experience here. All the lecturers supported me right the way through my training. I loved cooking and studying at IT Tallaght gave me the confidence to approach restaurants I wanted to work in to ask for employment. The work was hard but I was learning from excellent chefs.”
She later returned to complete another course and is now also lecturing and completing a Masters Degree in Culinary Nutrition in IT Tallaght.
Looking to the future of the course and Annette is optimistic, commenting: “We look forward to our past, current and future graduates and how they will be drivers of change in their own profession. We have new culinary and hospitality facilities currently being planned, which are to be operational for 2020 and we look forward to having it filled to capacity with full-time and part-time culinary students.”
She finished, saying: “As educators, we love and believe in our industry and the great career that graduates can carve out for themselves in it.”
Courses available at IT Tallaght are the Higher Certificate in Culinary Arts (level 6), the BA in Culinary Arts (Level7) and the MSc in Applied Culinary Nutrition, which has Neven Maguire, Derry Clarke and Domini Kemp serving as patrons. In addition, a new course for September 2018 is the BA in Botanical Cuisine. Here’s to 25 more years!
For more information about IT Tallaght and the culinary courses available, visit www.it-tallaght.ie.
Sarah has always had a great love of travel, food and photography. Following her journalism degree at DCU, she developed a passion for travel writing while living in Spain.
Sarah loves exploring new places and sampling the local cuisine. Working with TheTaste.ie combines her love of food and travel.
A big people person, especially when it comes to hearing other people’s stories, Sarah loves interviewing chefs, food producers and more.