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Thousands of race goers tried their luck at this year’s Investec Derby at Epsom Downs Racecourse but it was the students of Merton College’s Hospitality and Catering Academy who were the real winners as they enjoyed three days of paid work experience at the event, cooking alongside legendary chefs Albert Roux and Michel Roux Jr.

mertoncollege michelrouxjr Investec Derby

The work experience was offered to the students after the College cofounded the Investec Derby Chef Challenge, which saw our budding chefs design, create and pitch dishes to be included on menus at the world-famous event.

Investec which sponsors of the event, and the Jockey Club, which manage the hospitality at the racecourse launched the competition at the College’s industry-standard Hospitality and Catering Academy based at its Merton College last September.

Working with the racecourse’s top team of chefs and front of house staff meant the students saw all aspects of hospitality for such a large scale event – including creating dishes which were featured on the menus served in the Investec Suite, VIP suites and Chez Roux restaurants during both the Ladies and Derby Day festival.

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Katie Gadbury, Level 2 Food and Beverage student, said: “It was an amazing experience because the Roux chefs were so humble – you’d think that famous chefs would be more distant and not talk to you but Albert Roux and Michel Roux Jr went out of their way to be helpful and to teach us things.

“I was nervous because I’ve never worked front of house outside of the College restaurant – normally I’m in the kitchen – and I’d never worked at that venue before. We served nearly 300 people across each day.”

Feedback from the teams at Investec and the Jockey Club has been outstanding and plans are already being set in place for our students to return and work at the event next year.

Ross Anderson, Merton College’s chef lecturer who worked alongside the students on the day, added, “The whole process from Investec launching the competition to our students working at the Derby has been fantastic. We’re incredibly proud of all they’ve achieved and thankful to Investec and the Jockey Club for giving Merton College students this amazing opportunity.”