Rachel Gilmore – on track for a career as a professional chef

Tuesday

Most teenagers who achieve 11 GCSEs would be expected to go on to complete ‘A’ levels but the traditional route to university is not for everyone as former Northern Regional College student Rachel Gilmore can testify. Driven by her determination to qualify as a professional chef, Rachel decided to start from scratch and enrolled on a Level 1 Introduction to Professional Cookery course at College’s Ballymoney campus. She is now in the penultimate year of a Culinary Arts Management degree at the prestigious Westminster Kingsway College in London.

The eldest of four children and the only girl in the family, Rachel said she got her love of cooking from her mum who is a great cook.

“I always wanted to work in a professional kitchen but knew that if I was to learn my craft properly and get the basics right, I would have to work in a professional kitchen. So after doing GCSEs at Coleraine High School, I enrolled at the College to do a Level 1 Professional Cookery course at the Ballymoney campus. I then progressed to complete Level 2 and Level 3, which is the equivalent of A levels and a really good stepping stone to university.

“I loved every moment of my time at Northern Regional College and couldn’t recommend it enough. The Professional Cookery courses have a very ‘hands-on’ approach that balances theory with the practical experience of preparing and serving food.”

After completing three years at the College, Rachel decided to spread her wings. She secured one of the highly coveted places at Westminster Kingsway College  –  a top catering college - and is now on course to complete her degree in Culinary Arts Management next summer.

As soon as the lockdown was announced, Rachel returned home to Aghadowey but is now looking forward to getting back to London.

“This particular course has a great reputation and attracts a lot of international students – There are Nigerians, Italians and Jamaicans in my class so it was a great opportunity for all of us to learn about other cultures.”

Looking ahead to next year when she finishes her course, Rachel plans to return to work in Northern Ireland and, if the opportunity ever arises, she would love to do some part-time teaching.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have had some really inspirational mentors and role models along the way so I would love to be able to give something back by sharing my passion and expertise with others.   

Her advice to anyone unsure about what to do next, is to follow their heart.

“Look at all your options but make sure to choose a subject that you enjoy and want to learn about.”

Northern Regional College Catering lecturer, Jane McAuley said Rachel was a great student who had worked hard throughout her three years at the College

“Rachel was a pleasure to teach. She was an inspiration to other students and I wish her every success for the future.”

Rachel has been back at the Ballymoney campus on a number of occasions to talk to catering students and give demonstrations and, when the campus opens up again, Jane hopes Rachel will be available to talk to new students as part of their induction.