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Playing with knives

Former nursing student switches to cooking after eyesight diagnosis

When Hannah Beattie was diagnosed as partially-sighted she was forced to give up her plans to qualify as a nurse and work in Africa.

Instead the 24-year-old from Glasgow turned to her passion for cooking and decided to retrain as a professional cook.

Two years on, she has been awarded an HND with distinction in Professional Cookery at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and has spent time in France learning about patisserie after winning a scholarship from the Franco Society in St Andrews. Hannah Beattie

“Before I came to SRUC, I trained as a nurse,” said Hannah. “I had great plans to return to Africa, where I have previously worked, and save the world.

“Unfortunately, in the final stages of my degree, I was diagnosed as partially sighted, due to an ongoing neurological condition. Obviously, nobody wants a blind nurse and so I was unable to qualify.

“Having been told my eyesight meant it wasn’t safe to nurse, I felt the natural progression was to turn to the kitchen to play with knives and fire.

“I have always loved cooking and had been working in bakeries and cafes in Glasgow as a student. I realised this was a real passion and wanted to pursue it, so decided to return to college.”

She looked for courses in Glasgow but after being offered a place at SRUC’s Elmwood campus, she was persuaded this was the best place to go.

“I’ve had the most wonderful two years at Elmwood, my lecturers have been brilliant and I’ve learnt so much more than I could have imagined,” said Hannah, who was awarded the SRUC prize for best second year student in Professional Cookery.

“SRUC has given me the chance to work with not just chefs but also gamekeepers, horticulturalists and so on, who have taught me so much more about food than I would have learnt anywhere else.”

Hannah Beattie and classmate Nick Smith with MasterChef judge and Observer columnist Jay Rayner

SRUC – Elmwood College – Jay Rayner Day. Jay Rayner with students, Hannah Beattie and Nick Smith.

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