Feast for the mind and stomach at university

Vivek Singh is taking part in the Festival of the Imagination
Vivek Singh is taking part in the Festival of the Imagination

As Warwick University celebrates its first 50 years, it also gives us a chance to look at the future this weekend (writes Clive Peacock).

Taking a trip to Warwick’s recently refurbished campus will present a vivid insight into the future through presentations, provocative discussions, food fairs, panel discussions and lots more. Full details can be found at www.warwick.ac.uk/warwick50booking.

A highlight of this two day event is sure to be the festival’s own ‘Saturday Kitchen’, bringing three award winning chefs face-to-face with Warwick Medical School academics to challenge the buying, cooking and eating habits of us all. Top of the list of top chefs is BBC’s Saturday Kitchen regular, Vivek Singh.

In an interview he tells me about his early life determination to break with the family tradition of becoming an engineer and to develop his interest in cooking. Over several years and he gained a reputation as someone combining the new with the old, east and west, to create the best of both worlds.

We talked about challenges he faces staffing his four London-based restaurants. Second and third generation Asians now look to careers away from cooking; Government immigration rules require chefs to be paid over £28,000 in order to qualify for entry to the UK, whilst Vivek believes the industry is on the wrong footing if relying only on Bangladesh as the supply of chefs. So he trains his own staff and, with the assistance of the Asian Restaurant Skills Board, close to 25 per cent of his staff is home-grown.

He argues strongly that today’s culinary diversity presents a wonderful opportunity for young people to tackle apprenticeships in this rapidly growing sector of the market.

Hence his support of the RFU’s Wooden Spoon initiative becoming one of their ambassadors and big fund raiser, as I discovered when speaking with Kenilworth Rugby Club’s Jai Purewal, now a full-time employee of rugby’s children’s charity.

Next week’s Festival will intrigue, challenge, surprise and hopefully excite visitors with a different look into the future.