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Viewpoint: Can't find qualified chefs? Why not create your own training programme

05 May 2016
Viewpoint: Can't find qualified chefs? Why not create your own training programme

A home-grown training programme in Edinburgh is chef Martin Wishart's strategy for bringing young talent into his restaurant and the industry

Finding a well-trained chef in Edinburgh has become more and more difficult over the past few years. With so many new restaurants opening, there is a shortage of professional chefs to meet demand.

Young people have a very romantic idea about being a chef. This has not been helped by the amount of food programmes on television, such as MasterChef, Great British Menu and Bake Off. Although these shows do spring interest and attract some people into the industry, the realisation of what it really takes to be a chef is a hard one.

It appears to me that there is a knowledge gap between colleges and the industry. I have not had a single person in my kitchen that has attended college and that has been well-prepared to face the real workload and the demands of a busy kitchen. The knowledge, discipline, speed at work and efficiency required is certainly not there.

To overcome this problem and to ensure we secure some good staff, we have developed our own apprenticeship scheme. Initially, we started working with a university, as we wanted to create a scheme that would be recognised by an institution. However, the bureaucratic process was time-consuming.

My vision was to create a training schedule that would result in a diploma that would be validated by the university. This would enable apprentice chefs to progress onto further education at a later stage.

We eventually drafted an initial programme with the university. However, in practice this programme would involve an excessive amount of paperwork.

Therefore, we changed direction with the apprenticeship programme, altered the title from apprentice to trainee chef, and then kept the whole process ‘in-house'. For me, I found the bureaucratic processes attached to formal education establishments very frustrating and restrictive.

I have never received any support or grants for all the extra time that myself and our team dedicate to our training programme. However, we will continue creating a supportive learning environment that results in valuable individuals entering into the trade. I think there should be a lot more support from colleges, universities and the government to set up effective training programmes that will bridge the knowledge and skill gap and ensure chefs are prepared when entering into employment.

The Martin Wishart training programme objectives

  • To encourage and support young people when entering into the catering industry.
  • To offer support, training and a realistic learning programme.
  • To build up a rounded candidate with good prospects of employability.
  • To enhance the prospect of any new applicant, not only on the practical side, but by encouraging them to learn how to communicate and gain professional skills.

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