(Photograph) - Students at Europe's first Academy of Oriental Cuisine begin a three-year NVQ course in Chinese cookery this month. It aims to produce star chefs to rank with the best from France and Britain.
Six of the first intake of ten full-time students at the academy, housed in a former Victorian school building in Leeds, have travelled from Hong Kong.
The idea started with Rita Kwai Ling Stubbs, who has lived in England for 30 years and developed close links with West Yorkshire's 8,000-strong Chinese community.
"Many families are involved in catering but there is no formal training or qualifications for second and third generations who want to learn about their own cuisine," said Ms Stubbs.
But when she travelled to Hong Kong to recruit the principal, Stephen Mak, a former head chef at some of the colony's top hotels, she discovered students keen to train in England.
The academy has been set up with the support of the Department for Education and Employment, paying Pounds 3,000 for a full-time course based on a menu of modules at foundation, intermediate and advanced levels.
The curriculum includes kitchen management, Cantonese cooking and food sculpture - and ice carving, Mr Mak's speciality, on which he has written three books. With an academy restaurant operating downstairs in the college building, students have the opportunity of learning to cook and serve food to paying customers.
"It is important for them to learn how to cook to suit customers' demands," said Mr Mak, who was senior lecturer at the Haking Wong Technical Institute of the Vocational Training Council of Hong Kong for 18 years.
Ms Stubbs, who raised Pounds 1 million to convert and equip the building said: "It is a huge venture and we want to get it right. For that reason, we have enrolled only a small number of students for the first term so we can ensure our standards are high and our lecturers are properly trained."