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Viewpoint: Not enough cooks in the kitchen

29 September 2018 by

With the restaurant industry booming, a career in hospitality should have wide appeal. But we're suffering from a skills shortage, with fewer students interested in the field. Josh Eggleton has a solution

I'm based in Bristol and we definitely have an issue; our catering college has shrunk by 75% over the last three years, lecturers are being made redundant, and there are fewer students coming through. Something had to be done. So I created School of Food last year, alongside my long-term friend Adrian Kirikmaa, previously from City of Bristol College and now in charge of catering at St Monica Trust.

It's based on a new apprenticeship scheme from the government. We've taken their framework and put our own spin on it, using knowledge from our restaurants such as the Pony & Trap Group, and ideas from other top chefs and restaurants in the city. -

The name was really important to me as I didn't want it to come across as intimidating. The School of Food is aimed at young people looking to break into the industry, as well as those already working in restaurants, hotels and other food businesses. - We do not exclude anyone and we want to show people that hospitality is a great career option, and create a stable foundation for learning and cooking skills. -

Our 12-month School of Food course includes the commis chef standard intermediate apprenticeship combined with work-based training. We constantly update our curriculum and ensure it's relevant for the industry today. Our apprentices are mentored by a professional chef, who provides regular assessments and workplace visits to monitor progress. We have a guest chef every other week hosting a specific masterclass; I hosted a vegetable-cutting and knife skills class recently; Toby Gritten from the Pump House demonstrated techniques with meat and showed students how to braise a pig's face (bath chap); and Rob Howell from Root gave guidance in seafood.

It's a slow project but we have fantastic content and a great teacher called Charlie Urry. Oli Grassi works side by side with me to get this content across to people.

What we haven't got and what we need is the students. We're aiming to run commis chef courses starting this October in Weston-super-Mare and Bristol, with our key note partner Weston College, which helps us deliver the framework and the assessments, as well as the St Monica Trust. We will soon start to develop a front of house course and an advanced chef course, which will be integrated into the commis chef course.

Our focus at the moment is to let people know about the School of Food and what we offer - for me, all kitchens are classrooms.

Josh Eggleton is co-founder of the School of Food and chef-proprietor of the Pony & Trap

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