An Interview With: Diploma Class Teacher Michael Cropp

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An Interview With: Diploma Class Teacher Michael Cropp

Mike sharpening his knives

We caught up with Leiths senior teacher Michael as he reflects on how he came to work at the school and life as a diploma class teacher

Name: Michael Cropp
Role: Senior and class teacher

Years at Leiths: 7

Hi Mike! We are now approaching the half way point on the Diploma and things are starting to get a little more serious in the kitchen. Which demonstrations have you got lined up this term and how will you prepare for them?

My demonstrations for the term have all been done now, the students will have an increasing number of dems from external sources as the term goes on for example restaurant chefs, butchers and wine experts. My intermediate term demonstrations this year were game and enriched breads. I am usually responsible for the game dem as I enjoy this area and know it so well. As a result I feel confident that I know the recipes and skills involved so only a small amount of refinement and tweaking is necessary to prepare. This year we were lucky to have a lot of our game sent in from the Farr Estate in the Highlands thanks to the family of Doune, our PR officer at Leiths who ensured we had an abundance of hares, woodcock, ducks and pheasants among others. All teachers have to take on some demonstrations for areas in which they are not so well practised to ensure these techniques don’t get rusty, one of mine being enriched breads. For this dem I brushed up on the skills at home, making a walnut and raisin loaf and pecan sticky buns the weekend before… as well as a fair bit of bread plaiting!

Let’s go back to when your began your Leiths journey. What were you doing before you went into food?

I studied business at university before working for a short time in recruitment. I then went to help family expand a small food business in the Scottish Highlands for 2 weeks – which turned into a year! I decided during this time that I wanted to make a career out of food and after some researching I came across the Leiths diploma and signed up. It was a great year and I ended up winning the award for student of the year!

So where did the diploma lead you to next?

I always knew I wanted to work in restaurants so that was my focus. First I went to work at La Trompette under Bruce Poole who has a long standing connection with Leiths. After a year there I moved on to their sister restaurant, The Glasshouse in Kew where I stayed for 18 months. I was looking to use my training in different ways and had kept in contact with Leiths whilst working as a chef, so I approached them to discuss any opportunities I may have overlooked. A junior teaching position had become available so I applied for the role and went from there.

How does your job now compare to that of a restaurant chef?

Now I am on the other side, developing the students’ skills and passing on knowledge I have gained from the industry. There are different pressures and responsibilities – restaurant work was more focused, sticking to one section at a time. There is a lot more communication required as a teacher, dealing with people requires a variety of skills but specialist courses help with this.

So do you have a favourite type of cuisine?

Being classically trained and married to a French woman, I would have to say French. Anything cured or confited and lots of big flavours.

Do you have a favourite restaurant?

Well If I could go anywhere tomorrow it would be The Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye – for the food and the location. They have the most amazing locally sourced produce and land all their own seafood which is brought direct to the restaurant, it’s that emotional style of eating that makes it special.

If you could eat one meal everyday for the rest of your life what would it be?

A great steak, preferably on the bone. Côte de bœuf for one! Served medium rare with chips and béarnaise.

What item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?

It would have to be my Wusthof chef’s knife.

So what will you be cooking for dinner tonight?

We always eat fish on a Friday so probably simple pan fried fish with fresh vegetables. Otherwise it would be something like scrambled egg on sourdough toast.

Thanks Mike, enjoy the rest of intermediate term!

Author: Lizzy Jones

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