Xavier grew up in foster care in the small town of Kingussie in Inverness-shire. Between 2011 and 2020 he stayed with one family and has fond memories of watching his foster parents in the kitchen.
“My Foster Dad was the cook and my Foster Mum used to bake. She would get me, and her other children involved, and together we would make simple things like brownies and cookies. Things that make you think of home.”
Xavier struggled at school but started to realise he had a talent for cooking.
“I felt like cooking was the only thing I was good at. I’d watch my Foster Dad and copy him and as I grew older, I started trying more complex things.”
“My Foster Carers were really supportive of me picking my own path. They never discouraged me from what some would say is a poor career choice because of the hard work and long unsociable hours! But they stuck with me and gave me the space to explore cooking and baking.”
In 2017, Xavier was in 5th year and starting to think about life after school. He had also just got involved with Who Cares? Scotland.
Xavier’s Who Cares? Scotland advocate helped him to come to an agreement with his foster carers and his teachers, that for the remainder of his time in school, he would spend two days a week developing his practical cooking skills. On a Thursday he would work in a local restaurant, underneath a classically trained French chef, to learn and develop his skills and on a Friday he would utilise the facilities of the local Clachnaharry building, where the Highland contingent of Who Cares? Scotland are based, to practice his cooking.
“I wasn’t forced into academia, I was allowed to explore a more practical path which suited me. When you treat people as individuals, there is no wrong path.”
The support Xavier received from his Who Cares? Scotland advocate ensured his voice was heard and his rights were met when it came to his educational journey, and set him on his chosen path.
Now in his first year at Edinburgh Napier University, Xavier is working hard at his International Hospitality course. He’s been honing his experience beyond the kitchen by completing work experience placements across a variety of venues, from bars to B’n’Bs.
“I believe that to be a successful chef, you need to know about everything that goes into hospitality, not just cooking. Hospitality is a complete package.”
Back in the Kitchen, Xavier takes pleasure in the order of baking, believing it’s easier to learn from your mistakes because you can see exactly where you went wrong, and as a self-confessed perfectionist, that’s important to him.
Xavier specialises in deserts and patisserie now. He likes having the final word on the menu and strives to ensure the diner leaves remembering only their last course.
Bringing people together and showing them what he can do is what Xavier enjoys most about cooking. He has aspirations to start his own business providing catering for private dinner parties.
When Xavier reflects on his cooking journey so far, he knows it all started with those happy memories of baking with his foster carer, but without their support or the support of his Who Cares? Scotland worker, he may not have been able to follow his passion.
“This just goes to show that with the right support and people behind you, who want the best for you, Care Experienced people can achieve anything.”