By Andrew Holcombe
For anyone with travel aspirations, a career in catering literally opens up a world of opportunity. You could find yourself one day being the chef on a private superyacht or the multi-millionaire owner of a restaurant chain. Clearly you won’t actually wake up one morning and find yourself in this enviable position but nearly all of the household names that you have heard about or see on TV cookery programmes started at the bottom as humble trainees or apprentices in topflight kitchens. Now a novel catering course in London is succeeding in combining traditional college training with paid employment in some of London’s finest culinary establishments.
Today’s UK catering standards are infinitely higher than they were 30 or 40 years ago when most aspiring young chefs went abroad to work in the kitchens of the great and good in France or Switzerland. It’s amazing to think that it took until 1982 for the UK to gain its first Michelin three star restaurant ( Le Gavroche ) and even then the chefs, Michel and Albert Roux, were French. To emphasise the importance of getting a good grounding in a top restaurant, household names such as Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White and Marcus Wareing all spent time working in the Roux kitchen.
If you are determined and prepared to work hard, a successful career in catering is not just the preserve of a handful of well-known names. This is a big industry with over a quarter of a million chefs and over 25,000 new entrants in the UK every year. Even if you don’t own your own restaurant, you can still earn £70,000 a year as a top executive chef in London.
If you fancy yourself as one day holding a Michelin Star and enjoying everything that goes with it, then a good place to start is the catering apprenticeship scheme operated by the College of North West London which neatly combines day release training with paid work at top restaurants such as Benares where the Michelin starred Atul Kochhar works his magic in between regular appearances on TV programmes like Saturday Kitchen.
The apprenticeship positions are for direct employment with the businesses listed on the college’s website and each employer is solely responsible for all interviewing, shortlisting and management of successful candidates who then complete their apprenticeship qualification at the college.
When we last looked, the college had 20 vacancies ready to accept applications, including 2 at Benares. It will be interesting to see when the college’s apprenticeship scheme can boast its first Michelin star winner. It doesn’t need to take that long. After all, Atul’s contemporary, Nathan Outlaw, was awarded his first star when he was only 25.
Those who are interested in a broader cooking experience might want to consider learning their trade at another of the college’s partner’s, the upmarket takeaway food supplier Deliverance. The company currently operates from 6 different sites across the capital and already has over 80 chefs cooking everything from Indonesian Nasi Goreng to Spatchcock Peri Peri Chicken.
Interesting in discovering how you can go from student to supreme chef? Take a look the CNWL website catering apprenticeship vacancies