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Spotlight on: Rose & Crown and their River Cottage apprentices

Having run Rose & Crown, a 17th century pub in East Lambrook for two years, Pat Howard and his wife Jan were introduced to our Chefs’ School through Palmers Brewery as a way to train their team, and haven't looked back since.

As part of Pat’s commitment to training on-the-job, the Rose & Crown have fortified their team with three apprentices through our Chefs’ School; Toby and Luke on Level 3 cookery and Nick on Level 2 front of house. Having spent 38 years in the pub trade, Pat believes the key to success is continuous learning and training, “I take great pleasure in taking the time to pass on my experiences and train my team. I come from an age that when you came into the hospitality trade, you had to be trained. I reckon there are lots of pub failures because of lack of training. Both the kitchen and front of house teams need to be at the top of their game for the pub to survive.”

Pat finds that having three apprentices works well for the Rose and Crown, “Firstly, it keeps the boys motivated. Every time they come back from River Cottage after a two day training course they’re keen to tell me what they’ve learnt and apply their new skills to our menu. And also, it keeps their career on a professional path. This is great for the apprentices, as it means they will go far. But it also does wonders for staff retention as no one with any talent is going to work for an unprofessional organisation.”

It was a simple decision for Pat to choose River Cottage to deliver the apprenticeships, for its well-known and trusted reputation in the industry. Our accredited training programmes are delivered on-site and are fully aligned to the Rose & Crown’s values around fresh, local and seasonal food. The apprentices learn on the job, supported by Head Chef Andy Bradshaw. He is keen to give full exposure to what is involved in the job and pass on his expertise to the two apprentices. Andy says, “Working with Toby and Luke is great as they want to be here and are both keen to learn. They’re both advanced for their age and so passionate about good quality produce, which makes my life so much easier.”

Toby was 16 and fresh from Stanchester Academy when he joined the Rose & Crown as a River Cottage apprentice. He considered going to a local college, but welcomed the practical element of an apprenticeship instead, “I wanted to be out on the front line in a kitchen, learning as I work and gaining experience. Many of my friends are at college full-time with weekend jobs to earn money. I’m lucky to get paid as I’m learning, so I can do what I want with my spare time.”

Chef apprentice Luke had already completed his Level 2 apprenticeship at a college, before joining the Rose & Crown. To progress his qualifications, he enrolled on the Level 3 cookery scheme with River Cottage. He finds the course more holistic than the college, ‘It’s more complex as I’m now thinking about only cooking what’s in season, which changes the way I combine flavours. For example, I’d look to pair venison with berries as they are both in season together.”

Pat was also keen to ensure his front of house team benefitted from upskilling. Nick is currently studying a Level 2 apprenticeship in food and beverage service, but he believes the skills he is learning are all transferable. “Communication is key to running any business effectively, but it's absolutely vital that we communicate here in the pub between the kitchen and front of house. And the customer service skills I’m learning are invaluable.

Most importantly, Pat manages to create a happy and positive culture in his business, which emanates across his whole team. Nick says, “Learning while you work is so important. But what’s priceless is working somewhere where you love going each day, which is exactly how I feel. I’m very lucky indeed.”

To become a business partner and recruit River Cottage apprentices for your pub, restaurant or cafe, please contact for more details or visit our Chefs' School pages.