University teams up with leading South West restaurateur

University students are to benefit from new closer ties with chef, food writer and entrepreneur Mitch Tonks and his Rockfish chain of restaurants.

Mitch has been named as a patron of the University of Plymouth’s Hotel School, while Rockfish is now a partner.

The Hotel School gives students on the University’s Hospitality programmes access to high-profile industry players, as well as a chance to get inside successful businesses as part of their studies. It has partnerships with some of the top hotels and restaurants in the South West and further afield, and counts the Hon Olga Polizzi, hotel designer and mother of TV hotel expert Alex Polizzi, and other leading experts among its patrons.

Mitch, who received an Honorary Doctorate in Business from the University of Plymouth in 2016, is one of the UK’s most prominent seafood specialists. His Seahorse restaurant in Dartmouth has won the Observer’s Best UK Restaurant award, and Rockfish has twice claimed Best Independent Restaurant at the National Fish & Chip Awards, also winning the Good Catch sustainability award twice. It has restaurants in Plymouth, Dartmouth, Brixham, Torquay and Exmouth, with an Exeter branch opening late this summer.  

His book Fresh has been named Best Fish Book at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, and his achievements and influence have been recognised with a nomination for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year, and inclusion in The Caterer’s Top 100 Most Influential Foodies list and in The Telegraph’s top 50 Food Power List.

Mitch said: “We’ve been working with the University of Plymouth for quite a long time and in the last couple of years we’ve built a really nice relationship with the Hospitality department. I got my doctorate from Plymouth, and more recently I was approached to see if I wanted to team up. My answer was yes - it’s great for the business, and great for the students as well.

“I think people like to use a business they can see is doing the right thing and giving something back. There is also something great about working with an organisation that is providing us with the talent we need in our business.

“From a personal point of view as well, from where I started, I’m a self-made man, and I love the idea of helping others along that road as they make the same journey.”

Lecturer in Hospitality Management and Hotel School Co-Director Mandy Aggett said: “Mitch is a highly valued patron. Students learn a great deal from the time they spend with him – their experience is greatly enhanced by his input.

“These partnerships are incredibly important as they offer numerous opportunities to support students’ learning, and provide a real-life insight into hospitality operations, as well as the opportunity to engage with industry professionals.

“We are very grateful for all the support that Mitch provides and look forward to further developing our relationship with him and the Rockfish brand.”

Lecturer in Tourism, Hospitality & Events Management Catherine Hine added: “Mitch has provided opportunities and insight into his business for a number of years. Our students really benefit as it helps them to contextualise what they are learning back in the classroom, and see it in a real-life business situation.”

Charissa Chan - BSc International Hospitality Management graduate

Within 8 years I progressed from a HR assistant to an Area Director of HR & Training (currently looking after the HR & Training function for 11 hotels with around 2,000 employees)

After graduating Charissa has gone on to work for one of the most prestigious hotels in Hong Kong.

Read more about Charissa's journey since graduating