From Patisserie to Pedagogy: Matt Bungay’s Culinary Journey to Apprenticeships

Published by Gary Ellis on May 20th 2024, 1:01pm

Matt Bungay, the current Head of Apprenticeships at City, University of London, began his professional journey not in the hallowed halls of academia, but in the heat of the kitchen. “I started my career as a chef, a French patisserie chef,” Bungay recounts.

The birth of his eldest son marked a turning point for Bungay, prompting a quest for work-life balance that many parents will find familiar. “I realised I wanted to have a bit more of a work-life balance and not be a chef anymore,” he admits. Despite his love for the profession, the demanding hours were not conducive to family life, leading him to hang up his chef’s hat.

Transitioning from the kitchen to the classroom, Bungay was approached by HIT Training to become an assessor, leveraging his extensive knowledge to train the next generation of chefs. It was a role that he relished, finding joy in imparting wisdom to budding culinary talents. His knack for teaching and leadership quickly became apparent, propelling him through the ranks to manage and train assessors himself.

Bungay’s career in apprenticeships continued to evolve, leading him to create his own apprenticeship provider within a recruitment business, spanning 17 different brands and industries. His expertise then took him to the insurance industry as a Director of Training and Commercial Apprenticeships. Yet, it was the allure of degree apprenticeships that ultimately drew him to City, University of London. “Degree apprenticeships are the pinnacle of apprenticeships,” Bungay asserts.

Joining City on a six-month contract, Bungay embraced the risk, leaving behind a directorship for the promise of shaping his own destiny within the university. His vision was grand: to develop multiple apprenticeships across various industries and to pioneer new ones, such as the VR Apprenticeship in the creative industry. “It’s an ongoing project,” he says, “but we’ve now gone from being a project to business as usual and a key part of the university.”

Today, Bungay leads a team of over eight, with a wider network of apprenticeship staff across the university’s faculties, totalling around 27 individuals. His role has expanded from creator to leader, and he now serves as a strategic advisor to the senior leadership team. “I see an opportunity and go for it,” Bungay reflects. “I’m always looking for the next thing, trying to be ahead of the game.”

Navigating the Heat

Reflecting on the recent launch of the VR apprenticeship, Bungay draws parallels between the high-pressure world of culinary service and the challenges of his current role. “It took me back to being a chef at service at the busiest time, which was my favourite. I loved service.”

The rapid pace of the VR apprenticeship’s development, from conception to onboarding apprentices in a mere three weeks, was thanks to Bungay’s ability to thrive under pressure. He believes that the skills honed in the heat of the kitchen are transferable to any leadership position. “If you can run a commercial kitchen, you can run anything,” he asserts confidently.

His culinary background, particularly as a patisserie chef, has endowed him with a multidisciplinary skill set that he applies to his leadership style. “You have to be multi-skilled,” Bungay notes. “If you can do that, you can change your way of thinking.” His motto of consistency and authenticity has been a guiding principle, earning him the trust and following of those he leads.

Bungay’s adaptability extends beyond the kitchen to his understanding of diverse cultures and religions, a crucial aspect of his work in education. “Equality and diversity are key,” he emphasises, highlighting the importance of inclusivity in apprenticeships. These programs provide access to degree courses for individuals who might otherwise be unable to afford them, embodying the transformative power of education.

The Gateway to Practical Education and Career Progression

Bungay, with his extensive experience in recruitment, understands the value employers place on practical skills. “Everybody wants a degree that’s tangible, that can apply to the real world,” he states. Apprenticeships, according to Bungay, offer this practicality without the burden of debt.

At City, apprenticeships are not just about obtaining qualifications; they are a strategic tool for career progression. The arrival of Sir Anthony Finkelstein as president marked a pivotal shift for City, steering it towards a focus on business practice and the professions. “Apprenticeships align with that absolutely perfectly,” Bungay remarks. He highlights the solicitor apprenticeship as a prime example, enabling students to pursue a career in law who otherwise could not afford it.

Bungay praises the university’s professors for their willingness to develop new programs tailored to specific sectors. “We’ve created an apprenticeship which means they can use the levy to upskill their leaders within film, TV, and performing arts,” he says. This innovative approach extends to the use of VR technology, allowing apprentices from across the country to participate in London-based courses.

Bungay also touches on the broader impact of apprenticeships on the learning and development landscape. With increasing employer awareness of the apprenticeship levy, there is a growing recognition of its potential to expand training budgets and create bespoke programs at various levels. Looking at the NHS as an example, Bungay notes that apprenticeships are integral to their workforce plan, with one in five employees being an apprentice.

Crafting a Legacy

Bungay, who has been nominated for two prestigious awards, reflects on his journey from chef to educational leader, emphasising the transformative power of apprenticeships.

“I’ve been very lucky,” Bungay begins. His philosophy is simple yet profound: “Never be afraid to go for it, to ask the question, to believe in yourself that you can achieve it.” He sees his role as empowering others to reach their potential, instilling in them the courage to pursue their ambitions.

As a leader, Bungay’s legacy is shaped by his passion and thoughtfulness. “I would like to be remembered as a passionate, thoughtful leader that really cares about what he’s doing,” he says. His connection to the service industry remains strong, drawing parallels between the dedication of chefs and his current work. “The best chefs are the ones that really care.”

Bungay’s approach to leadership is centred around team dynamics and the belief that success is a collective effort. “You’re only as good as your team,” he asserts.

Matt Bungay’s legacy, therefore, is not just in the programs he has developed or the awards he may win, but in the lives he has changed and the industry he has invigorated with his unwavering belief in the power of apprenticeships. 

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Authored By

Gary Ellis
Senior Editor
May 20th 2024, 1:01pm

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