“Teaching young people to cook is a life skill that actually means life”
The first cohort of students on the Professional Graduate Diploma in Secondary Home Economics teaching at Queen Margaret University (QMU), Edinburgh, had an exciting first day of their induction, with an inspirational and motivational talk from MasterChef professional winner and National Chef of Scotland, Gary Maclean.
Born in Glasgow, 47-year- old multi-award winning chef Gary spent his early career working in hotels where he learned a number of key skills. At the age of 30 he opened his own restaurant in Glasgow and as head chef challenged himself to regularly create new and exciting menus for his customers.
Gary has also held executive chef positions at two of Scotland’s biggest independent operators and his current role as Senior Lecturer at City of Glasgow College is what really drives his passion for mentoring other young chefs and creative cooking.
In December 2016 he was crowned MasterChef: The Professionals Champion 2016, after taking on 47 other professional chefs in the pursuit of gastronomic glory, and in 2017 he was appointed National Chef of Scotland by First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
However, it was his early experiences of Home Economics – and one teacher in particular - that first ignited his passion for all things food. “I’m a product of an amazing food education,” said Gary. “At high school I was totally inspired by my Home Economics teacher, Mrs Drummond at Knightswood Secondary School in Glasgow. I was hopeless at school and my claim to fame was that I was the worst in every class. Then I was introduced to Mrs Drummond and food. Within a very short period of time I found myself to be the best in my Home Economics class, and I discovered a competitive edge and a drive to do my best and try hard. I actually wanted to impress a teacher for the first time ever. This is long before I ever considered being a chef.”
Gary spoke candidly about his experiences teaching young people to cook, and lamented current issues impacting on Scotland’s health and wellbeing. “I believe that people in Scotland spend more time picking what shoes to buy than what food to buy,” he said. “People buy their weekly shop out of habit as opposed to out of necessity, with any real thought behind what they’re buying. We treat food with such little respect. We have middle-aged people unable to cook even the most basic meals from scratch.”
He continued: “In Glasgow our average life expectancy in some areas is 50-something – and that’s purely down to lifestyle and diet. Scotland produces some of the best food in the world, we have amazing products we export, and yet they don’t necessarily reach our own homes.
“I don’t think your job will be to line up the next generation of chefs and waiters – your job is much more important than that. Teaching young people to cook is a vital skill. It’s a life skill that actually means life.”
This essential life skill is just one component of QMU’s PGDE (Secondary) Home Economics degree. Through practical classroom experience and research-driven academic learning students will learn how to help young people become citizens of a planet in which food security is under threat, resources are finite and health challenges persist.
The PGDE aims to develop knowledgeable and critical consumers with an awareness of global citizenship and its responsibilities. Find out more about Queen Margaret University’s PGDE Secondary (Home Economics) degree.
Notes to Editor
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