Leanne De'ath, a former VRQ Professional Cookery student, who first came to the college aged 14 as part of our 14-16 provision, has progressed from City College Norwich to working in the kitchens of 5-star hotels – and is now a contestant on Channel 4's Bake Off: The Professionals.
Still just 23, Leanne is one of the youngest chefs in the competition, in which she has teamed up with Romain Tssr to represent the luxury Hotel Café Royal.
Leanne worked alongside head baker Romain in the Hotel Café Royal for 2 years. She has recently returned as pastry sous chef to The Grove, a luxury hotel in Hertfordshire, where she was working and training after relocating from Norwich.
Leanne, who plans to eventually have her own pastry shop in Norwich, is thriving from all that she is learning from her experience on Bake Off: The Professionals:
"I think the best part of being on the Bake off is the experience it gives you. I have loved every minute of it so far and have made so many friends who are all so talented."
Leanne's time at City College Norwich provided a great platform for her progress in her early career as a chef. She says:
"City College prepared me in so many ways - from being punctual with work, to being organised when cooking with plans, and to always keep clean in the kitchen. College also got me out of my shell. I was so quiet when I started. I think if they did not make me speak up, or work on succeeding on the course, I would have not got as much confidence as I have today."
The experiences Leanne has gained with The Grove and the Hotel Café Royal have been key in her development as a talented pastry chef:
"Both places are 5-star hotels and have high standards. The experience I have got from them has been wonderful! You learn so much and gain so many skills by pushing yourself to learn. Now I know sugar, chocolate, cake decorating. I've had some really good pastry chefs teach me, like Reece Collier from The Grove and Sarah Barber when I was at Hotel Café Royal."
Reflecting on these experiences, Leanne has the following words of advice for current students aiming to progress in hospitality:
"At the end of the day however much effort you put in to your job or course, that's the experience you will take from it. If you push yourself far you can do whatever you want. I never thought I would be a pastry sous chef in a 5-star hotel at the age of 23 - but anything's possible if you work hard for it."
Sue Kesseck, Professional Cookery Lecturer, recalls the promise shown by Leanne whilst a student with City College Norwich:
“Leanne was an exemplary student, conscientious, eager to learn and always on time. She had a real flair for pastry, which was apparent very early on. We are delighted to see how well Leanne is now doing in her career and we are all rooting for her in Bake Off: The Professionals!”
Picture: Mark Bourdillon / Love Productions