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River Cottage Celebrates with Chef Apprentice Graduates

Since opening its doors a year ago, Chefs’ School has placed 74 apprentices in 50 local businesses, transforming lives of these young people, many of whom will progress to become great chefs.

River Cottage Chefs’ School are celebrating with the first of their apprentice chef graduates after completing an intensive 12-month programme. The 11 ecstatic graduates were the first of 74 apprentices currently studying on the Young Chef Apprentice Scheme – a professional and personal journey that aims to equip young learners with the skills they need to enter the catering industry. They marked their final day by cooking a banquet for themselves and their tutors to showcase the best of their culinary skills.

This comes after a year of hands-on experience studying at River Cottage’s state of the art Chefs’ School, while working in some of the best restaurants, pubs and hotels across the South West.

River Cottage founder, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall believes that learning on the job is crucial for budding chefs, “There is an enduring, knowledge-for-life quality to this kind of learning that cannot be replicated outside the workplace. Our apprentices often cite the confidence-boosting, stimulating, varied nature of their apprenticeship along with the enriched and accelerated learning process as the key to building a successful career.”

The graduates were unanimous in their view that this had been one of the greatest experience of their lives.

Daniel Plumb said getting onto the apprenticeship programme was a shock, “I wasn’t very academic so decided to give up 6th form and military school. I always liked cooking so I saw this programme as an opportunity that I couldn’t afford to miss. I’ve now proved to myself and others that I’m a really good chef and I’m confident in my cooking. I’ve even had a couple of job offers, which is something I never expected.”

Chris Griffin, Head of Education, reflects on the ambitions of the project, “Our aim is to do more than just teach cookery skills and get young people into jobs. We wanted to help produce chefs that were conscious about sourcing ingredients, who understand the importance of locality, of animal welfare and sustainability. The whole team and I are so proud of what these graduates have achieved. The food they are now producing is truly fantastic; they have developed so much over the past 12 months.”

While some graduates are furthering their studies by completing River Cottage’s Level 3 in Professional Cookery, others are leaving to take the culinary world by storm, with placements in some top establishments such as Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Morro and Ascot. One graduate will be working in New York with a charity that provides cookery skills to disadvantaged children; another will be going into food nutrition.

River Cottage are pleased to announce that they are now accepting applications for their culinary apprenticeship scheme starting in September. This will result in a further 60 new jobs being created in the South West.

Highlights of the programme include insight into the famous world of River Cottage, state of the art kitchens to train in, mentoring and support from established industry professionals, and the chance to compete for the prestigious Rising Star award. Best of all, there are no tuition fees to pay and learners will receive a salary from their employer throughout the programme.

Applications for the Young Chef Apprenticeship Scheme are open to 16-24 year olds and being considered until the 11 August. Apply today at www.rivercottage/apply.