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Inverness student and father-of-four who quit job celebrates chef scholarship win

By Val Sweeney

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James Durning in the UHI Inverness training kitchen.
James Durning in the UHI Inverness training kitchen.

A cookery student at UHI Inverness who quit his job to follow his long-held dream of being a chef has won a scholarship offering work experience and training at a high-end restaurant.

Father-of-four James Durning (27), who studies Professional Cookery level 4, received his scholarship from the Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland (HIT) during an awards event in Glasgow.

More than 300 scholarships were presented at the HIT Talent Conference to people studying and working in the industry.

He won the Chef Crafts Skills Scholarship after he lodged a submission explaining his current role, career ambitions and who inspires him.

James, who worked in the care sector for 10 years, quit his job to his pursue his culinary ambitions.

He studies at UHI Inverness three days a week and works as a commis chef at Loch & Larder at Eastgate Shopping Centre in Inverness for three days a week.

He has the support of wife, Emma, and his children Billy, Charlie, Luna and Minnie.

"Education is the most important thing you can do for yourself, and you should take any chance you can to continue on that journey," he said.

"I was working as a carer and one day I said to my son that he should always follow his dreams, and he replied that he wasn’t going to because I didn’t.

"I quit my job the very next day and I went to the food court in Eastgate and asked them to give me a job and they did, even though my only cooking experience was baking a couple of cakes in a care home.

"By getting a job, studying here and winning the scholarship I’ve been able to show my son that what can happen if you follow your dreams."

He is waiting to hear which restaurant he will be placed in as part of his scholarship.

Professional Cookery lecturer Saurav Kumar said: “James is in his first year of studying with us and has already proved himself to be a talented and diligent student with lots of potential.

"I’m delighted that he secured this prestigious scholarship and I’m sure he will make the most of this experience and apply his new skills to further his education and career."

HIT Scotland is an industry charity unique to Scotland which provides fully-funded learning experiences for those studying or working in Scottish hospitality.

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