A student at Fareham College has swapped life as a plumber to pursue a lifelong passion, cooking up a storm at a national student cookery competition along the way.
Kia Vincent downed tools from her career as a plumber and decided to go back to school and do something she really loved following the arrival of her second child.
She signed up for a professional cookery course at Fareham College and hasn’t looked back. In her third and final year, Kia has recently been crowned winner of a national student cookery competition.
Following her success, Kia went on to cook her winning dish for 250 guests at a prestigious awards ceremony in London.
The competition was organised by the UK’s largest shooting organisation, the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC). BASC teamed up with top UK venison processor Highland Game to launch the cookery competition.
Kia wowed the judging panel with her winning dish, a Jamaican style venison patty, which she then went on to cook for guests at the Eat Game Awards ceremony in March.
The judges were in “100 per cent agreement” that Kia should be crowned the winner, with BASC’s wild food officer Matt Gisby calling her a “very worthy winner” with her “standout dish”.
BASC has worked with more than 700 students at colleges across the UK since early 2021, highlighting the field to fork journey of game meat to students and staff and promoting its versatility, benefits and fantastic flavours. The college visits culminated in the launch of the competition.
Kia said all five finalists had worked really hard and that she thoroughly enjoyed herself. She said: “The pastry was a challenge – I had to do quite a few trials to get the pastry how I wanted. First I overcooked it, then I blended too fine, then I finally got it perfect, so that was the only challenge!”
Originally from St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean, Kia said cooking was something her family did together. She said her Mum was “very proud” of her. She said: “It’s a family tradition to cook with your parents. My Mum has a restaurant back home, so it was part of our family; everyone in my family is a chef.”
Kia said one of her earliest memories is sitting at a table peeling onions at the age of three. She said: “My dad died when I was three, but he had a little restaurant on the seaside. I think that’s my first inspiration, one of my earliest memories.”
After a spell of living in Germany while her husband Joseph was in the Army, Kia returned to the UK and initially worked as a carer. Soon after, the couple signed up to attend college together, with Joseph training as a plumber and gas engineer and Kia as a plumber.
After attending lectures together at college, Kia and Joseph set up their own company, which Joseph still runs while Kia now works as an event chef alongside her studies.
She said: “To be honest I always wanted to be in the food industry and just never had the opportunity because I was living in Germany so after I came over, I was settling myself and trying to find my feet. I went into social work first and was working as a carer. Then, after I started my plumbing career, I got pregnant with my youngest child and realised I had to change my career and that’s when I decided to go back to school and do something I really loved doing.”
Kia added: “I have always been driven to succeed. I wanted to develop and learn a new career path; I started on level one of my college cookery course and progressed through; I am now completing the level three qualification. I believe that to be great at anything; you need to have a strong foundation and learn the basics.”
Looking to the future, Kia said she is looking into her options, but her ambition was to open a hotel and restaurant, highlighting the versatile nature and outstanding flavours of Caribbean cuisine. She said: “Gaining experience in fine dining and outstanding culinary skills is important in achieving my aims in the future.”
She added: “Everything in the competition has been about learning and developing myself. I can definitely see myself going on to be a chef and continue cooking and bringing Caribbean cuisine alive.”
Roy Ashcroft, a chef lecturer at Fareham College, said: “I always thought that Kia would have a good chance because she’s really talented. There’s a good backstory to her canape from her homeland and her Mum’s influence as well. When I tasted it, I was just blown away. It’s one of the nicest things I’ve ever had.”