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Meet the Team

John Wheeler

John Wheeler, Deputy Head of Hospitality

As Deputy Head of Hospitality John works with a team of 18 to provide NVQ and VRQ professional cookery and hospitality qualifications throughout the academic year from levels 1 to 3.

John's role also includes working with the other tutors and external professionals to develop the Michael Caines Academy within the faculty and ensure all learners complete their programmes so they are professional, competent and industry ready.

John has had a long career history in the hospitality industry going back some 23 years. He started as a chef in the British Army and moved on to hotels and restaurants, working his way up to Head Chef and Chef Manager. John has travelled extensively working in Central America, Africa as well as spending eight years in Central Europe working as an Area Operations Manager in a large overseas multi-site contract.

Jane Taylor

Jane Taylor, Food Service tutor

Jane Taylor lectures the first year Michael Caines Academy students in restaurant skills and theory-based learning. Jane has a wealth of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry and is a former lecturer at Hereford College, where she worked for seven years.

"As a teacher I find our students very inspiring. They are wonderful to teach and seeing them develop is very rewarding. The academy is excellent as we organise and arrange guest demonstrations with successful chefs from around the area; we help cater for events so that our students can experience what it is like working in real work like situations. We feel that the academy gives our students that edge that other students don't have."

"We prepare our students for industry, so that they leave Exeter College with the skill set needed for a long and rewarding career in the business. We work closely with local employers and offer our students placements in establishments in the local area."

Ian Biggar

Ian Biggar, Level 1 Michael Caines Academy tutor

Ian, a former student of Exeter College, started his career in the food and hospitality industry working in hotels and restaurants in and around the local area, before working for Michelin Starred chef Michael Caines MBE.

"I tutor the first year students making sure that they are on target and are up to date with their work. Their experiences and work placements take up a lot of time so they need to be extra focused - it is my responsibility to ensure that they are on track. I help them to arrange their 6-week work experience placement at the end of their course, which is a great way to gain more experience in the industry and make contacts."

For Ian, It is working and nurturing his student that is the most fulfilling aspect of his job.

"Seeing the students develop and progress and seeing them reach the targets we set them is very rewarding. Seeing the look in their eye when we take them to fine dining establishments like Gidleigh Park and seeing what it is possible to achieve in the industry is hugely gratifying."

Matt Picket

Matthew Picket, Level 2 Michael Caines Academy tutor

Matt teaches and supports the students on the second year of the course. Matthew is a Devon chef through and through. Describing his village upbringing with a smile he talks about the earliest days on his gastronomic journey, peeling potatoes at the local pub, at the tender age of 14. Enjoying all the pursuits the West Country has to offer Matthews cooking style reflects an "honest" ethos that he strives to embed in his menus and his students.

After graduating through the national apprenticeship scheme Matt worked through the ranks at Brazz Exeter under the Chapman Empire. Working off shore, followed by time exploring the gastronomic delights of Australia, Matt returned to the West Country working in several City restaurants before joining Woodbury Park where he held and maintained a converted AA rosette for 9 consecutive years.

Fresh from industry Matt is embracing the new challenges of guiding the next generation of talented hospitality professionals through the prestigious MC academy.

Stafford Pitts

Stafford Pitts, Lecturer, Restaurant Service and Front of House

Stafford has worked as front of house for many restaurants and hotels before becoming a lecturer at Exeter College. He worked at the Michelin-starred The Castle, in Taunton, Somerset, where he worked his way up to the role of restaurant manager.

"We gained a Michelin star while I was employed there which was an obvious highlight. It is quite a renowned hotel. Gary Rhodes, Phil Vickery, Shaun Hill have all worked there."

It is Stafford's job, along with his colleague Jane, to look after the day to day running of the college's own fine-dining restaurant, @thirty-four.

Stafford helps the students learn key skills in the hospitality industry as front of house, such as welcoming guests and assigning them to their tables, taking reservations and ensuring that guests are satisfied.

"I really believe that the Michael Caines academy is the best foundation possible before students become industry professionals. It is a unique experience exclusive to our students and we are proud of what we had achieved so far and will continue to keep tweaking the programme to suit our students needs and the needs of the industry."

He continued "The most rewarding thing for any teacher is seeing the progression of your students, seeing them become professional. We equip our students with the relevant tools to make it in a very fast paced and competitive industry."