University student opens his own restaurant in Swansea

Kevin Blanco Ledesma, a second year BA International Gastronomy Management student at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) is juggling his studies whilst running a newly-opened restaurant.

Kevin, who was born in Spain, and was a finalist in the World Young Chef Young Waiter – Wales competition 2022, is the proud owner of Casa Blanco, a tapas restaurant at 85 Newton Road, Mumbles, Swansea.

Kevin, who has previously worked as a head chef at restaurants in Spain and Swansea, credits the University for helping him start his own business and says the support from his lecturers has been fantastic.

He said: “It’s been a dream of mine to open and run my own restaurant and studying for this course has helped me to do so. It has taught me so many key managerial skills. In particular the structure, management, and marketing modules have given me the confidence to get up and running, knowing I have the skills necessary, which can feel quite scary at times.”

The BA International Gastronomy programme is designed for candidates to develop specific skills, focused on restaurants and international gastronomy, back of house, front of house and managerial leadership, allowing them to have access to wide-ranging career opportunities on successful completion of the programme.

Staff who teach on the programme have exceptional links within hospitality, with all either having owned, managed, or led in restaurants themselves.

There is strong engagement with key employers and focused participation in skills networks and initiatives. The programme provides ongoing placement within a professional restaurant alongside  academic modules each semester over the three years and continuously evolves in accordance with feedback from professionals within restauration. The University has strong working relationships with leaders across hospitality, including The Seren Collection, The Retreats Group, Celtic Collection, Redefining Dining and Compass Levy Wales, with the support of leading Chefs and Sommeliers across the UK and globally.

Kevin said the support of staff meant he felt supported throughout his time at UWTSD.

“The lecturers know restaurants as they have worked in them and they also know from experience, how tough it can be. They are able to assist me with any challenges I have encountered as quite often they have first-hand experience,” he added. “It’s been important, with their help for me to stay positive and continue to learn so I can continue to build my own business.”

Jemma Smith, Programme Manager said: “Going into Kevin’s restaurant and seeing what he’s already been able to put in place has been so inspiring, given the fact that he hasn’t yet completed his degree. He’s worked extremely hard to be in the position he is and is an asset to the other students as he can help to teach them about his journey and what it takes to get something like this up and running. He should be enormously proud of himself.

“There’s only so much that text books can teach an individual. I think that unless you have worked in it yourself, you don’t quite understand exactly what goes into it. It is a skilled profession. It is something that takes time, effort, patience. Recruiting lecturers with sector competence puts our students in a strong position where they can learn from individuals who have been there themselves and actually have real life experience.”

Dr Jayne Griffith-Parry, Academic Director for Hospitality and Tourism Management said : “ Kevin was the first applicant recruited onto, what was then a new programme in 2022, he has proved that our approach to learning alongside skill acquisition forms a strong basis for the future of hospitality and prepares students for employment within restaurants wherever they might be and whether they are entrepreneurial or not. The lecturing team supported by our amazing employer liaison network is preparing them to be the next hospitality influencers and the profession is in safe hands.”

Pic caption: Kevin is pictured with Dr Jayne Griffith-Parry at the opening night of his new restaurant in Mumbles, Swansea.