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Simon Genduso 

Lecturer, Hospitality Faculty (Oxford)

There isn’t one favourite part of working at Activate Learning, there’s a whole journey and story behind why I like working here. 

Before I became a teacher, I was working as a chef, had my own business and everything was great, but I needed something new. I was at a stage in my life where I was working seven days a week, silly hours, and I just needed something new. So, the business went and I started looking for something else to do. I’d never thought of going into education, but what I did enjoy when I had my own business was teaching the chefs new techniques. 

When the Activate Learning job offer came through, I had a look at it—I am based in Reading—and came to look at the equipment. What we have here, the professional-standard kit that we have is just amazing. So that was what initially pulled me in. Then, it was the support I got from my colleagues as the job progressed. Now, what I like about teaching here is the support that you get.  

We’re not just left alone here, we have a massive support network, whether it be digital support, or a manager, or a colleague…if you have a problem or you’re not sure about something then there’s always someone to go to. I like the Learning Philosophy.  Think as a chef, the brain, emotion, motivation…they all kick in really well. 

My role is a lecturer in the hospitality sector, I teach professional cookery, so I’m teaching what I’ve done for the best arty of 35 years, which is just an amazing job. I love cookery. The best part of the role is just being with the students seeing the development of the students. Seeing them from when they first pick up a knife and just have no idea how to hold it. To give them a piece of chicken and ask them to cut it, but they’re shaking because they’re scared because they don’t know how to do it, then seeing the progression of that over the first few months and then, you give them a chicken and bish, bash, bosh it’s done and they’re moving on…they’re like sponges! They just draw everything in. There are a few students that struggle with confidence; they have a fear of failure. In hospitality though, we embrace failure. If something goes wrong then there’s no point in getting annoyed about it, there’s no point getting upset. As long as we know where something went wrong, then we can work on that. That’s the great thing about these training kitchens. In here we can make those mistakes. In a restaurant, maybe not so much, because people are paying, so we need to make sure they’ve had a good experience, but here we can learn from our errors. 

 For me, that’s the best thing: seeing students take that journey. After two or three years when they leave here, we go out for lunch, raise a little glass of wine—because they’re 18 then!—and I toast them.  

I would say I follow 95% of my students on social media once they graduate and to follow their careers just makes me proud. That’s what I love about my job: that it makes me proud.  

My colleagues inspire by being so supportive. It’s not just in the hospitality team; it might be someone from the beauty or sport faculties and we just talk and work through each other’s problems. Everyone just really gets on, so to get up in the morning and go to work, you really want to enjoy going to work. If you don’t, it’s time to move on, but everyone here is great and really rises to the expectations of the learner and enjoys being in that supportive role. There’s a really good mix of different specialism within this team it is really that team that makes it work for me.