Sparks Restaurant - Sheffield College training the chefs of the future

On the menu: Mango and passion fruit mousse

On the menu: Mango and passion fruit mousse - Credit: Archant

Meet two new members of the team behind one of Yorkshire’s most successful college restaurants. Photographs by Dan Mortimer

Shelley Kirk, restaurant trainer with production chef Joseph Hunt

Shelley Kirk, restaurant trainer with production chef Joseph Hunt - Credit: Archant

His school friends dreamed of becoming astronauts or footballers but Joseph Hunt knew from a young age that he wanted to become a chef. ‘Food is a massive part of my life and always has been,” said Joseph, newly appointed production chef at The Sheffield College training restaurant, Sparks. ‘I’ve early memories of sitting around a huge table with 20 family and friends all laughing and eating. That sense of social ritual is so important to me. The kids at primary school wanted to be footballers or astronauts but I knew I wanted to be a chef and cook all day.’

Sparks Restaurant, which is open to the public, has a strong reputation for its food, value and service. The 60-seat restaurant is open five lunchtimes and three evenings a week, and provides meals created by catering students under the expert supervision of experienced staff. It is based in the £1.2m catering wing at City campus, Granville Road, one of the leading purpose built further education colleges and vocational training facilities in the North. It has a video link screen so that diners can watch the trainee chefs preparing their food in the kitchen.

Before joining the college, Joseph, 30, from Chesterfield, notched up industry experience at the famous and award-winning River Cottage in Devon. He worked alongside chefs there and ran cookery courses. He originally trained at High Peak College and set up his own brasserie at the age of 19 which he ran for three years.

Joseph added: ‘I wanted to get into teaching and be part of shaping the future generations of chefs. When the opportunity to join the college came up, I was really pleased. It has such a good reputation in the industry, and is very well respected. The facilities are also great, and Sparks Restaurant is well thought of. We have many regulars who enjoy our high quality food that is also value for money.’

Shelley Kirk has also just joined Sparks as restaurant trainer after a successful career travelling the world as a member of British Airway’s air cabin crew at Heathrow Airport. She said: ‘It was a great job where I developed customer service skills. One of the highlights was meeting the actor George Clooney. I am keen to share everything that I have learned to give students a flying start in the industry.’

Heather Smith, principal at The Sheffield College, said Sparks Restaurant provided students, who go on to employment in hotels and restaurants nationally and globally, with a brilliant opportunity to sharpen their skills in a realistic working environment and guided by expert staff.

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The restaurant offers a lunchtime menu from Monday to Friday, which costs £7.95 for two courses and £9.95 for three courses; a four course dinner menu on Tuesday evenings, which costs £16.50; themed food nights on Wednesday evenings until the beginning of May, for example, French, Spanish, Indian, American, Caribbean and Moroccan cuisine, which cost £11.50 for two courses or £14.50 for three courses; and gourmet food nights on Thursday evenings comprising canapés, home made bread and a five course tasting menu, which costs £19.50. Email or call 0114 2602060


• The Sheffield College is a further education college providing academic qualifications up to university level, and vocational training for young people and adults geared to careers and the world of work. It offers bakery, catering, hospitality and patisserie courses and qualifications. New developments include plans to launch a foundation degree in bakery and patisserie in September 2016. The college, which is Ofsted graded ‘Good’, has a £321m economic impact on the city annually.

• Students train in industry standard facilities. There are six training kitchens including a bakery and patisserie. Special features include bread retarders and prover ovens, six walk-in fridges, blast freezers, top of the range ovens, a sous vide cooking bath, a smoking machine for fish and ice cream machines.

• The college has a national reputation within the catering and hospitality industry, based on a long tradition of training the next generation of chefs. Alumni include Rupert Rowley, head chef at the Michelin starred Fischer’s Baslow Hall and co-owner of Rowley’s Restaurant and Bar, both in Baslow, Derbyshire, Tom Lawson, head chef and co-owner of Rafters Restaurant in Sheffield, Ian Musgrave, sous chef at The Ritz in London and Andrew Baird, executive head chef at Longueville Manor in Jersey.

• The Sheffield College was the first further education college nationally to be invited to join the prestigious Master Chefs of Great Britain. Three staff are members: Mick Burke, a former Yorkshire Life Education Award winner who is one of only two Master Chefs of Great Britain Fellows in Education in the UK, as well as Len Unwin and Neil Taylor.

• The College has won a string of industry awards over the years, and is a popular venue for the hosting of prestigious regional and national competitions including the industry acclaimed Skills for Chefs that attracts the country’s leading culinary experts.

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