Hotel management company BDL won the Springboard Award for Best Chef Strategy earlier this month. Its group F&B manager Rob Wear tells Neil Gerrard about the company's recently launched apprenticeship programme, called Chef Academy, as well as its own company-wide BDL chef competition.
How many chefs are you taking into the programme each year?
We looked internally initially and we selected six chefs. Out of those six chefs we expect four to graduate this year. And next year we are looking to take on about 15 through external and internal recruitment.
How long does the programme last?
How is the programme funded?
Our training partner Babcock gets funding from the Government, so it supports us with training literature, workbooks and so on. But we also take the apprentices out on an off-property practical workshop and we work with our supply partners for that. So there is really no direct cost to our business at all, which is what makes it viable.
How long has the BDL chef competition been running and how does it work?
We have just done the second year of that. We have teams of front of house and kitchen and they present three courses over 90 minutes. We generally get a panel of external experts to judge it. There is a junior level; a mid level, which is a bit more techical and pressurised; and high level, which involves our head chefs as well.
What do the winners receive at the end of the competition? This year we took the winners out to Dinner by Heston - that's the tasting menu, chef's table, the full experience.
Why is it so important to offer apprenticeships for this?
The rewards are great. Recruitment of F&B staff at all levels is challenging in the sector that we are in, the midmarket hotel sector. We have some fantastic, passionate individuals in the business, and it is important to retain them.