June's Star of the Month is Dr Craig Thompson, managing director of Macdonald Hotels & Resorts' Centre of Applied Tourism and Hospitality. He was nominated by Ramneet Aulak of PR agency Davies Tanner for his Quick to the Cut course, an intensive chef training programme for the unemployed. He spoke to Laura Marie
Caterer Why did you nominate Craig?
Ramneet Aulak Craig designed the Quick to the Cut programme in response to the high number of chef vacancies across Scotland and the unemployment levels. It aims to provide secure recognised qualifications and its first five industry recruits graduated from the course earlier this month. Until 12 weeks ago, each of these recruits had been unemployed for at least six months. They have experienced training and development across four different kitchens, have been formally assessed and achieved an SVQ level 2 in food preparation. Four of them have been offered jobs with Macdonald Hotels.
Caterer How do you feel about the award?
Craig Thompson I'm really surprised. I had no idea I'd been nominated. But it's great, especially as it's so close to the students' graduation.
Caterer How did you come up with the course?
CT Macdonald Hotels approached me about the scarcity of chefs in the industry and asked me whether I could do anything about it. I knew of schemes like the Springboard chef programme, which teaches methods for becoming a chef along with encouraging pupils to get involved with the industry, and of the Swiss method of training in intensive blocks, so I applied the same thinking to the Quick to the Cut scheme.
Caterer What does the course involve?
CT It's a free scheme that involves 12 weeks of intensive training. By working in such an intensive environment trainees gain experience in the kitchen. They will have achieved an SVQ level 2 in food preparation at the end of the 12 weeks.
Caterer How did you pick the trainees?
CT We advertised the scheme through the JobCentre Plus network. A panel then decided whether applicants were suitable for the programme by looking at their academic history and enthusiasm for the scheme. The students were aged between 17 and 39 and came from a range of different career backgrounds.
Caterer How did they perform?
CT The improvement in the graduates' skills throughout the 12 weeks really amazed me. They transformed from nervous and shy students to confident chefs and by graduation could prepare menus and cook and present meals of the highest quality. Subsequently four out of the five graduates have been employed by Macdonald Hotels.
Caterer What will you do with the prize money?
CT Some of it will probably be given to graduates on the course who have been particularly high achievers, and the rest shared out within the scheme.
To nominate someone for this award, visit www.caterersearch.com/starofthemonth