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How to nurture young culinary talent

23 September 2016
How to nurture young culinary talent

Foodservice firm Sodexo is opening up its kitchen to schoolchildren and college students so they can see first hand what a career in hospitality could be like for them, says David Mulcahy, culinary director at Sodexo

Doubtless one of the catering industry's best initiatives to encourage young people to develop life skills in cooking is Springboard's FutureChef competition. Sodexo has been involved in it for more than a decade, not only through its involvement in the steering group, but also as the unique experience we provide as the prize for the winner and their family.

This is why we are proud to be the campaign partner for The Caterer's new Think Again initiative. We also support Springboard's Ambassador programme, where chefs from the industry volunteer as mentors and supporters and help to raise awareness at schools across the country.

It's not only important that professional chefs participate in these activities. Sodexo also runs its Salon Culinaire event every year - the largest of its kind outside the Great Hospitality Show and Hotelympia. It is the most dynamic event on our calendar and, in addition to the national event held at Ascot Racecourse, we hold similar events in Ireland and Scotland.

Thousands of people attend the national event, where we run a wide range of culinary competitions demonstrating the skill and talent of our people. Last year we had around 900 employees compete in the many live and static competitions. But it's not just our people who attend the event - we strive for it to be a showcase of the industry and, for this reason, we link with our education team and invite young people from six schools where we provide our catering services.

We run a special itinerary for the schoolchildren, which includes talks from chefs such as James Tanner on what a career in the industry may be like. They are given a behind-the-scenes tour of the vast kitchens at the racecourse, and for lunch they can get to sample some of the different food we provide - particularly street food, which gives them the chance to try different tastes and cuisines. We even get them to take part in a cupcake decorating challenge.

Every year we invite students from a catering college as well - this year we have students from Merton College. They will participate in classes that will provide them with the opportunity to develop their skills and find out more about what foodservice companies can offer.

There are some very talented young chefs out there and it is important to capture their attention. And only by working together as an industry, with charities like Springboard and through

The Caterer's new Think Again campaign, with young people at our client sites and in the wider communities where we operate, can we reward young people with a fulfilling career.

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