Young chef tasting success amongst top college students of 2021

Patsakorn Thitisap

Norwich City College award winner Patsakorn Thitisap working at the prestigious Great Fosters hotel in Surrey. - Credit: Jess Grundy

A high flying young chef who arrived in the UK unable to speak English and has gone from working part-time in a local restaurant to a Michelin-starred kitchen is among the students of the year at three Norfolk colleges.

A total of 22 award winners have had their achievements at Easton College, Norwich College, and Paston College recognised.

In addition, two exceptional students were presented with additional recognition for their work during 2021.

Poppy Bye

Paston A Level student Poppy Bye who was awarded The Governors’ Award for Outstanding Student Achievement. - Credit: Norwich City College

Paston A Level student Poppy Bye was awarded the Governors’ Award for outstanding student achievement, and Patsakorn Thitisap received the Governors’ Robert Walton Award for outstanding contribution to college life.

After his family moved from Thailand six years ago, 22-year-old Patsakorn, from Dereham, successfully moved through the levels of his professional cookery courses at City College Norwich.

Having arrived in Norfolk not speaking a word of English he worked part-time at a Thai restaurant throughout his time at college, helping to supplement his family’s income.

City College Norwich staff are set to vote in a ballot by Unison the union on potential strike actio

City College Norwich. - Credit: Keith Whitmore

He also worked at City College Norwich’s Debut Restaurant and gained valuable experience at events including the Royal Norfolk Show and the Lord Lieutenant’s retirement celebration.

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His skills have been recognised by Concord Hotels, who offered him a place on their highly-regarded chef development programme.

He is now working at the luxury hotel Great Fosters, near Windsor, which has restaurants including one overseen by Michelin-star chef Tony Parkin.

City College Norwich principal Corrienne Peasgood OBE.

Corrienne Peasgood OBE, principal of City College Norwich, Easton College, and Paston College. - Credit: Archant

Patsakorn, who eventually wants to own his own restaurant, said: “I love cooking and I just want to take it further and keep learning. Being on the Concord Hotels programme is a fantastic opportunity for me.

“I liked everything about my time at City College Norwich, the teaching staff were great, and everyone is really friendly.”

Poppy Bye’s outstanding achievements at A Level won her a place on her dream UEA course studying ecology and conservation.

Paston College in North Walsham is offering new courses. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Paston College in North Walsham. - Credit: Archant

During her time at Paston College, she became a young ambassador for the National Autistic Society, volunteered in a hedgehog rescue centre, worked at the Hamlet Charity helping young people with complex learning needs and won an Art-Science Award through Norwich Research Park.

She said she was “really happy and proud” to have her student achievements recognised. “It was heartwarming to hear the kind words that were said about me,” she said.

Jessica Byford

Norwich City College award winner Jessica Byford has now successfully set up her own painting and decorating business. - Credit: David Kirkham

Others whose achievements were recognised included Jessica Byford, 20, from Bergh Apton, who during her four years at Norwich College grew from an initially shy student to a confident painter and decorator who has now successfully set up her own business.

“My tutors and parents helped me to get set up, getting a van and things like that. I couldn't have asked for more from everyone,” she said.

Unsure of what direction to take after completing his GCSEs, Ben Collingwood, 17, from Ashwellthorpe, discovered arboriculture.

Ben Collingwood

Easton College award winner Ben Collingwood has his sights set on becoming an apprentice tree surgeon. - Credit: Norwich City College

Since joining Easton College, he has rapidly built up his knowledge and skills and now has his sights set on becoming an apprentice tree surgeon.

Twenty-four years after a BTEC National in Health Studies set her on the path to a career in nursing, Mel Walker took the bold step of returning to City College Norwich as an adult learner.

An emergency nurse at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, she was keen to gain a qualification that would help her in training others in her professional environment.

Mel Walker

Mel Walker took the bold step of returning to City College Norwich as an adult learner. - Credit: Norwich City College

"I love nursing and ED is in my blood. I have a passion for teaching too. I realised I could pursue my passion for teaching others, and gain a qualification, within the nursing profession,” she said.

Meanwhile Gus Cringle, 19, from Buxton, changed direction to study production arts at City College Norwich overseeing the front of house at its Platform Theatre. 

Gus Cringle

Award winner Gus Cringle joined the production arts course at City College Norwich. - Credit: Norwich City College

Due to the pandemic, the 2021 awards celebration was held online rather than as a face-to-face event. 

Corrienne Peasgood, principal of all three colleges, said: “It is always incredibly difficult to select a small number of award winners from so many fantastic student achievements. These award winners have all done exceptionally well and are amazing examples of where further education can take you.”

Full list of winners

  • Outstanding Commitment in Academic Progression (GCSEs) – Shane Price 
  • Outstanding Achievement in Sports and Public Services – Amelie Goodyear 
  • Outstanding Achievement at A Level (Norwich College) – Rose Johnson 
  • Outstanding Achievement at A Level (Paston College) – Poppy Bye 
  • Outstanding Achievement and Commitment in Access to Higher Education – Edward Juden 
  • Outstanding Achievement in Education and Training – Melanie Walker 
  • Outstanding Student Progression in Inclusive Learning – Maddy Kerry 
  • Overcoming Barriers to Success in Pre-Employment Training (MINT) – Meghan Read 
  • The College Award for Dedication and Progress in English – Hope Godwin 
  • The College Award for Dedication and Progress in Maths – Lara Scott   
  • The College Award for Dedication and Hard Work in ESOL – Younes Bel Haj 
  • Outstanding Commitment in ASPIRE – James Howard 
  • Outstanding Achievement in Media, Business and Digital Industries – Reanna Denson-Smith 
  • Outstanding Effort in Engineering - James Thurston  
  • Outstanding Achievement in Construction – Jessica Byford 
  • Outstanding Achievement in Creative, Production and Performing Arts – Angus Cringle 
  • Outstanding Achievement in Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy – Evelyn Scott 
  • Outstanding Commitment and Progression in Hospitality and Catering - Patsakorn Thitisap 
  • Outstanding Achievement in Health, Social Care and Childcare - Branwen Westbrook  
  • Outstanding Commitment in Animal and Equine – Connor Murray 
  • Outstanding Achievement in Land-based Industries – Ben Collingwood 
  • The James Barr Memorial Award - Elizabeth Williams 
  • The Governors’ Robert Walton Award for Outstanding Contribution to College Life - Patsakorn Thitisap 
  • The Governors’ Award for Outstanding Student Achievement – Poppy Bye