The Lewis Partnership, owner of the Moat House hotel and Swan hotel in Stafford, has set up two innovative joint education programmes with local colleges in an effort to improve the basic skills of catering students.
The programmes, which have been in development for 12 months, will see students from Stafford College and Fair Oak Business and Enterprise College spend time in the Moat House kitchen during the next academic year, which starts next month.
Lewis executive chef Matt Davies, who is spearheading the scheme, said basic skills were often lacking. "It can be frightening. Some students come out of college and they've never seen a fresh scallop," he told Caterer.
The move follows the row caused by Oliver Peyton and Marco Pierre White, who described catering colleges as a "disgrace" and "a waste of time", prompting widespread criticism from the education community.
Davies admitted that the standard of catering colleges was variable. "There are good colleges and bad colleges out there," he said. "The Moat House is still a place of excellence for Birmingham College and they've got it very right - they've got good resources, good funding and excellent chefs. But there are also colleges out there which are getting it very wrong."
However, Davies said high-profile chefs should be helping colleges rather than criticising them. "It's all right for big names to shout about the state of colleges, but what are they doing about it?" he said "These are high-profile and very successful chefs who could be sharing their skills with colleges."
Mark Sutton, head teacher at Fair Oak, said the partnership with the Moat House would give a new dimension to the students' learning.
"It's an exciting collaborative venture which will enable students to experience a taste of reality in the demanding work environment of hospitality and catering," he said.
By Tom Vaughan