Old Waconians Royal Dreams Come True

Royal family fan Esther (Class of 2003) came closer to royalty than she could have imagined when she was called up to make the 70th Wedding Anniversary cake for Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip this year.

Esther Gamble (née Crookes) graduated with a First Class degree in Food Science and Technology from Manchester Metropolitan University. Her career has now taken her to biscuit giant McVitie’s where the opportunity of a lifetime arose – to make a one of a kind, personalised cake as a gift for the Royal couple.

We caught up with Esther about her time at CHS and how it felt to be involved in such a prestigious celebration.

How did CHS lead you to where you are now?

CHS taught me about hard work and determination and the importance of deadlines and responsibility. If it wasn’t for the work ethic that CHS instilled in me at a young age then I wouldn’t have been as successful as I have been. I wasn’t the most natural academic but I was determined to do well. 

Were there any teachers who inspired you?

My love of cooking started with my Year 6 teacher, Mrs Jackson, who used to run a Cooking Class.  When I joined Seniors I had two incredible Home Economics teachers who gave me a love and a passion for food, Mrs Parkin and Mrs Ball. It was the one subject where I really excelled and enjoyed. I even did Gourmet Club with Mrs Ball on a Thursday night. But the food industry isn’t just about food; you need a good grounding of Maths, the Sciences and Business as well as being able to articulate your points. I had to pass Chemistry to get into university and through Mr Chippendale’s determination, he dragged me through that A level! 

What piece of advice would you give to students considering a career in the food industry?

It’s not a career that many people think of, but it’s an amazing industry to be a part of. If you love food and are creative, look into it, you’ll find it a fascinating job to get into. I now head up the R&D function for the Cake side of the McVities (pladis) business for the UK and Europe and every day is different. I work with all sorts of people including Chemical Engineers, Accountants, and Marketers. But what makes my job so special is that I get to create cakes for a living and see them come to life on a supermarket shelf – plus I get to eat a LOT of cakes!

How did you feel when you went to deliver the cake?

It was the most nerve wracking drive of my life. The cake took 5 months of planning and 30 solid days to finish. The flowers and plaques were made by specialists and we had to get the cake to Windsor Castle from our R&D Centre of Excellence in High Wycombe in one piece. We left at 6am and drove all the way with the emergency lights on so we could drive at 20mph. But delivering it was incredible, knowing that a cake I had worked on was going to be given to the Queen and Prince Philip was amazing. I’ll probably never get another chance to do it and I think we did a pretty good job!

See the beautiful cake and hear more from Esther in this short film.