Junior Chef Academy whets Portsmouth teens appetite for hospitality industry

School students celebrated graduating from this year’s Junior Chef Academy with gusto during a special ceremony with artisan pizza and mocktails.

The 10-week programme, run in partnership with national caterer Compass Group UK & Ireland, is a free after-school initaitive designed to teach local 14 to 16 year olds cookery skills, food hygiene, health and nutrition and inspire them to become catering apprentices.

One graduate Tilly Yeats, from Oaklands Catholic School, said: “My favourite part about the course was being able to learn new skills you wouldn’t usually learn at school. I think it was useful because if you want to become a chef when you’re older, you got a sense of what it’s like in the workplace. I’d definitely recommend this if you want to learn new skills and make new friends.

The planned Graduation Dinner was hampered this year by Coronavirus restrictions, but the team of aspiring culinary professionals didn’t let this dampen their spirits, celebrating with artisan pizza and mocktails instead.

Ross Collins, also from Oaklands Catholic School, said: “I found that coming on this course helped to develop my cooking skills, and I’ve noticed my knife skills have dramatically improved. Our tutors, Paula and Leanne have been really good from beginning to end. They helped us along the way and gave us tips on what to do.”

Head of Menu, Recipe & Ingredients Management Team, Compass Group UK & Ireland, Bob Brown, said: ‘I’d like to think the students had a really good 10 weeks with us and I hope it’s given them an appetite to pursue a career in catering, especially within Compass and the diverse culinary opportunities and experiences we can offer.’

Held in colleges throughout the UK, the initiative has already helped 3,000 teenagers gradate into chef positions since 2003.

Plans are already underway for next year’s Junior Chef Academy, which is set to start in January.

Craig Mincher, Director of Employer & Commercial Services, Highbury College said: “We’re very proud to have supported student chefs’ first steps in the culinary industry alongside Compass Group. It’s really important the students could gain experience in our professional kitchens, especially if they are considering a career in the culinary arts. The Academy offered an environment which be can’t be replicated at home or online, so it’s been incredibly beneficial for the students to have access to the fantastic facilities Highbury has to offer. We can’t wait to see what all the graduates accomplish in the future.

“Thanks also to our partners Compass Group, plus Harvest Fine Foods, Nisbets, Lockhart Catering Equipment, John Sheppard Butchers and Major Stocks for their fantastic contributions and sponsorship of this year’s programme.”

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