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TV food judge Gregg Wallace gave the seal of approval to Merton College’s brand new Hospitality and Catering Academy, ahead of the first students firing up the hotplates next month. The £5.7m facility, based at the Merton College opens on September 4 and will offer courses for all ages, from beginner to university-level.

 Wallace, who lives in nearby Putney where he runs café restaurant Wallace&Co, toured the modern facilities to see just what was on offer to the next generation of catering and hospitality professionals. He was impressed by what he saw.

The co-presenter of BBC’s MasterChef series, said: “Speaking as someone who left school with no qualifications, who works in the industry, and also as a dad, I think the College’s new academy is fantastic. I left school at 14 and I’m amazed by how much education has changed. For students to gain hands-on training with equipment you’d find in top restaurants is phenomenal.”

 merton college hospitality and catering academy Gregg Wallace BW web Charlotte Knee 31 web

The hospitality industry is expected to grow by almost 2% this year, adding around £40bn to Britain’s economy. With over half a million hospitality jobs forecast to be created by 2020, it’s an attractive career.* The Hospitality and Catering Academy is hoping to plug the skills gap by equipping students with the skills that are most in demand.

The building offers three high-spec teaching kitchens, a specialist pastry kitchen and industry-standard equipment. Overhead cameras linked to screens at the workspace let students watch demonstrations up close.

Students will also gain real world experience by learning their trade in the College’s commercial restaurant which will be open to the public by the end of the year. The College’s links with respected venues, hotels, restaurants and food outlets will also give students an insight into the industry on placements and visits.

Gregg added: “Particularly in London there’s a growing demand for talented hospitality and catering staff so it’s brilliant that South Thames College has invested in the future of the industry – and the future of local students. I look forward to eating here when it’s up and running.”

There are a limited number of places still available for a September start. For information on enrolment dates visit

Photography by Charlotte Knee