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Ashfields Restaurant is awarded prestigious AA Rosette recognition

York College & University Centre’s Ashfields has become only the second on-site college training restaurant in the North of England to be granted AA College Rosette Highly Commended status.

The award is the equivalent to receiving two rosettes in the industry-respected and trusted AA Restaurant Guide and recognises the quality of food produced and level of service delivered by our hospitality and catering students.

Newcastle College’s The Chefs’ Academy and Bistro was previously the only Further Education provider to have been issued with a rosette north of the Midlands.

In addition to the rosettes, Ashfields also achieved a Gold award from People 1st after assessors enjoyed a meal in the restaurant.

That inspection resulted in a final grading of 138/145 with full marks received for the Industry Engagement; Resources and Quality Assurance observations.

Work Experience and Enrichment; Staff; Learner Recruitment and Provision Success and Review ranked highly, too, to contribute to the best possible overall outcome.

The twin recognition means College’s hospitality department is now regarded as a “Centre of Excellence” and comes at a time when a pair of talented students have just finished runners-up in two prestigious competitions.

Penny Garside placed second in The Chefs’ Forum Student Pastry Chef of the Year tournament and Lucy Richmond emulated that achievement at the International Wine and Food Society’s Young Chef of the Year final, where she was joined by fellow York College students Jake Bullock and Sophie Davies.

A fifth Sim Balk Lane representative Jasmine Ferdinando will now compete in the final of the Nestle Torque D’Or Hospitality (Front-of-House section) tournament this week.

Penny Garside
Penny Garside
International Wine and Food Society’s Young Chef of the Year runner-up Lucy Richmond with York College Head Chef Gio Achenza

Ashfields - a reference to the secondary modern school that used to be located on College’s current Sim Balk Lane site - is in the process of a rebrand, which will see it renamed The Cookery.

It is felt the new name will better complement the Cookery School that was launched for adults at the start of the academic year, with a full refurbishment planned for over the summer.

The stall outside of the restaurant that students sell food from during lunchtime will also become The Cookery Eats.

A Highly Commended (or two rosette) AA verdict signifies an “excellent restaurant that aims for and achieves higher standards and better consistency” with “a greater precision apparent in the cooking and an obvious attention to the selection of quality ingredients”.

The AA inspector noted that the hospitality provided by students made for “a very pleasant experience” and that “the team seemed to have a pleasant culture, making eye contact, smiling, being helpful and generally maintaining a friendly ambience”.

Food, meanwhile, was deemed to be of a “great” standard with special mention to the focaccia bread, which was described as “excellent” and “delicious”.


The inspector sampled three courses – a starter of Beef Fillet Carpaccio served with parmesan panna cotta, caper berry, rocket salad and nduja mayonnaise; a main course of Beef Ossobuco Milanese served with saffron risotto and salsa verde and a dessert of Chocolate Cremeux, Hazelnut Praline and Caramel Ice Cream.

Ashfields is open to members of the public on selected evenings and afternoons with students supervised by Head Chef Gio Achenza and Front-of-House Tutor Suzanne Barwick.

Prices for evening meals start from £25 per person with Burns Night and the Chinese New Year just two of the many themed events that have taken place in the restaurant this year, along with Asian, Greek, Caribbean, Italian, Spanish and Mexican nights.

This year’s programme will conclude with a Lobster Festival tomorrow (4th June) and a Food and Cocktail Pairing Menu on Wednesday 12th June.

Afternoon Teas and Fish and Chip lunches also prove popular daytime dining options for Ashfields regulars.

In its assessment, People 1st summarised: “A very impressive college department who have a clear approach to ensuring that they are providing the right skills, knowledge and behaviours required for their students to have successful careers in the industry and the independence to care for themselves if they choose not to progress in the sector. The industry links are very strong and it is great to hear that the commercial impact of the area is also very strong with a strong revenue forecast that will be invested back into enrichment opportunities for the learners.”


Further reference was made to the guest chef visits and external trips that are organised for the greater benefit of the students’ education and the fact that students on all courses at all levels are expected to work both in the kitchen and front-of-house to ensure they are “multi-faceted and more employable”.

The kitchen resources, meanwhile, were described as “industry relevant and plentiful” with the availability of specialist kit such as chocolatier and pasta-making equipment noted.

As part of the assessment, People 1st also consulted the likes of Adam Wardale, the chair of Hospitality Association York, and celebrity chefs Tommy Banks and Steph Moon, who have all forged strong links with College and are among the local industry figures whose input is being sought to help shape our curriculum to meet the future needs of the profession.

The care shown by College’s Additional Learning Support Team was given particular praise during the inspection, too, along with the staff’s vast and diverse experience of working in the industry and course results that are above the national average.

This academic year has seen more than 300 students enrol on our Hospitality Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Apprenticeship and Cookery School courses – up by 320% on 2021 numbers - while students have been able to demonstrate their talents outside of the building when catering at the National Trust Christmas Party and serving the Lord Mayor of York at the Mansion House.

Ashfields is regularly inundated with complimentary message from satisfied customers and here is a selection of some of our favourites received during the current academic year:

“Last evening's Mexican meal was such a treat!!

“The menu choices were well researched and the execution exemplary. Homemade tortillas and tostilocos were a revelation. Everything was tasty and beautifully presented, nothing like we had ever had in a commercial restaurant. This theme should definitely be a regular feature in your curriculum. Thank you chefs!

“Our waitresses Anja and Lily were attentive and courteous. Once they passed their initial shyness it was lovely to see them relax and start to enjoy interacting with us. Great job!”


On behalf of Dringhouses WI I would like to thank you and all the staff for the wonderful evening that we all had last night. Please pass on our thanks to the students for their excellent standards of preparation, cooking, serving and overall politeness. They really made the evening special for us and we wish them all the best with their studies. They are a real credit to you and the college.”


“Just wanted to say what another fabulous evening we had last night, the best we’ve attended so far. The food was excellent, from presentation to tasting every mouthful, paired with wines with flavours and aromas which really complimented each course.

“The students are developing their skills and confidence and are a credit to you. Looking forward to the next event already.”


I am writing to thank you, the staff and students for a perfect Burns Night Supper. Starting with the traditional piping in of the guests and then the haggis, the evening was a triumph.

“The chef read the ‘Ode to the Haggis’ magnificently - I hope he enjoyed the evening as much as we did. Our thanks to the chefs and student chefs for the meal.

“Each course was delicious, cooked to perfection and showcased Scottish produce brilliantly. The front-of-house service was slick and calm despite the huge numbers to be served exactly the same food at exactly the same time.

“Your students are a credit to the staff, and indicative of the pride and care you all put into your work. Thanks again and I look forward to seeing you for our Fish and Chip lunch. I have a table for six booked for my church ladies. See you then!”


York College & University Centre currently offer the following hospitality courses and apprenticeships: Introduction to the Hospitality Industry Foundation Learning; Hospitality Multiskill Level 2 (Chef, Pâtisserie & Front of House); Production Chef Apprenticeship Level 2; Hospitality Team Member Apprenticeship Level 2; Senior Production Chef Apprenticeship Level 3; Professional Cookery (Professional Chef/Pâtisserie) Level 3; Food & Beverage Supervision Level 3.

For a full list of upcoming themed nights at Ashfields and details of Afternoon Teas and Fish and Chip Lunches, please click here

To reserve a table, please email or phone 01904 770253.

Details of upcoming York College Cookery School courses can be found here

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College Rosette Highly Commended
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