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Ping Honorary Doctorate – Bath Spa University

Ping Coombes awarded Honorary Doctorate


Local MasterChef champion, Ping Coombes, awarded Honorary Doctorate by BSU

Thursday, 13 June, 2024

Bath Spa University has awarded Bath-based BBC TV MasterChef winner, Ping Coombes an Honorary Doctorate for Social Inclusion, recognising her inspiring journey to success, her passion for food and her heritage, and her contributions to Bath.  

Each year, BSU confers honorary awards to individuals who have made a notable and sustained contribution to their academic fields or profession, to society, or to the University. Bath Spa University is the Sunday Times University of the Year for Social Inclusion 2024, and this is the first Doctorate of Social Inclusion to be awarded. 

Ping was presented with her Honorary Doctorate by Bath Spa University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sue Rigby on Wednesday 12 June at a ceremony in the Michael Tippett Centre, Newton Park, followed by an acceptance speech from Ping herself. 

A visionary of Malaysian flavours, Ping is one of the UK’s most celebrated chefs. A home cook whose recipes have travelled far beyond her own kitchen, Ping saw her dreams become a reality after she was crowned MasterChef champion 2014.  

In her recent TEDx talk, Ping discussed how she sees food as a ‘superpower’ and her passion for flavours and cooking. Her commitment to promoting diversity in foods has given her a name as both a revered chef and a pioneer for social inclusion. 

Born and raised in Malaysia, Ping’s childhood was rich with the flavours of her mother’s Malaysian cooking. After moving to the UK, she describes craving the taste of home and began to recreate her family’s beloved recipes. Cooking allowed her to step outside her comfort zone and dive into a world of new social networks. 

Following a redundancy, Ping took a shot at her lifelong dream and applied for the world’s most successful cooking show, MasterChef. Her food packed enough punch to wow MasterChef judges, and she seized herself a victory in the final rounds of the competition.  

Ping’s MasterChef win kickstarted her career, seeing her shine a spotlight on Malaysian food through her cookbook, ‘Malaysia, Recipes from a Family Kitchen’, cookery classes, supper clubs, talks and cooking demonstrations, all while drawing on her local knowledge to advise her extensive social media following on the best eats in Bath. 

Ping’s further accomplishments include winning the coveted MasterChef Champion of Champions trophy in 2021. 

Upon accepting her Honorary Doctorate, Ping Coombes dedicated the award to her Papa who passed away earlier this year. She said:  

“Through the common language of food, I have been able to break down barriers, lower inhibitions and properly connect through understanding and tolerance. Social inclusion is not merely a concept, it is a fundamental human right.” 

Ping added:  

“Social inclusion begins with small acts of kindness and understanding. It starts with listening to those whose experiences are different from our own, standing up against injustice, and with creating opportunities for those who have been left behind. It is about recognising our shared humanity and our collective responsibility to one another. Everyone deserves to shine.” 

Professor Sue Rigby said:  

"I am delighted that we are awarding our first ever honorary doctorate in social inclusion to Ping Coombes. Her work and contribution speak for themselves and align brilliantly with our mission to make higher education and culture available to everyone with talent and potential." 

Attendees were treated to an interview and Q&A session led by Richard Bertinet of The Bertinet Kitchen and moderated by Chancellor of Bath Spa University, Sharanjit Leyl

Food and Nutrition student, Harriet Sadler then formally welcomed Ping to the BSU community before guests enjoyed a Malaysian-themed menu provided by the University Catering Team and reflecting Ping’s culture and heritage.

The Lord Leong CBE, judge of The Golden Chopsticks Awards and awardee of the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) discussed Ping’s achievement. He said:  

“We in the East Asian and Southeast Asian community are very proud of Ping’s achievements and she is very much a role model to many in the community. We cannot wait to see what she achieves next! You have made the right decision.” 

Recipients of Honorary Degrees are proposed by BSU staff with input from students and nominees are approved by the University’s Board of Governors

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