Charlie Stockwell, 17, is a Westminster Kingsway graduate and chef at Galvin La Chapelle. He competed on the main stage along with Galvin and Lexington Catering apprentices at Hotelympia 2016. He tells Lisa Jenkins about his early professional training and his first steps on a chef’s career ladder
How did you first get interested in the hospitality industry?
At school I had two part-time jobs, both related to produce, cooking and the industry itself. I started my first job at 15 in a farm shop as a butcher. I worked with a very experienced team of old-school butchers, which was amazing and they helped me develop my knife skills and my knowledge of meat.
My second job was at Saracens rugby club in Twickenham. There I worked alongside another chef, catering for around 200 people in a corporate members’ club.
Why did you choose Westminster Kingsway College for your formal chef training?
Westminster Kingsway College has an outstanding reputation for producing great chefs. I also have friends and family in the industry, and when I asked them where I should go, they all said Westminster Kingsway.
How did that lead to you being selected by the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts?
The Royal Academy visited the college towards the end of my first year on the professional chef diploma. It was offering a more advanced and faster course for young chefs who are keen and ready to go into the industry.
To get on the course, I had to first be placed on a shortlist, depending on attendance, attitude and skill level, and then I did a mystery box cook-off, and finally an interview to assess us and decide where to place us.
Twelve of us were selected to be mentored by chef Tony Cameron. That led to a trial interview with Galvin brothers and, from there, I had a chef’s role at Galvin La Chapelle.
What challenges have you encountered while training and in your early career?
There are many challenges in the industry that every chef will go through, but the one that I have faced is living outside of London and having to wake up in the early hours. However, once you are in the close and heated environment of a kitchen, anyone with a problem is never far away from help.
What’s it like to work with the Galvins?
Working for Chris and Jeff is fantastic. They are encouraging, helpful and always familiar faces around the kitchen. They have helped me personally so much from starting in the industry, including working with the apprentices from Galvin and Lexington Catering to create collaborative learning and opportunities, including competing on the main stage at Hotelympia 2016 in the inaugural Galvin Lexington cup.
Who is your mentor at Galvin La Chapelle?
Kevin Tew has been a huge mentor for all of the apprentices, always helping us to learn and develop. Also, he guided us on our journey to Hotelympia in his spare time.
Tell us a secret…
When my mum cooks at home, I season her food when she’s not looking. She thinks she makes a great spaghetti bolognese…