Cut forward to today and we’ve trained more than 100 apprentice chefs and served over 400,000 diners.
The restaurant has proven itself as a social enterprise that’s achieving what it set out to: give young people the means to create a new direction for themselves and make some fantastic food whilst we’re at it. But what about the beginning and how did it all come about? None of it would have been possible if it weren’t for a few very determined individuals…
Back in 2004, Betty Hale was working in the community regeneration department at Restormel Borough Council. Betty had followed the success of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen London and could see the enormous benefit such a project would have in Cornwall, one of the most deprived areas in the country with the lowest average wage and high youth unemployment.
Armed with a vision to bring Jamie Oliver’s concept to the county she enlisted help from local businessmen Will and Henry Ashworth, owners of the Watergate Bay Hotel. Will and Henry had the perfect venue overlooking the beach and the scene was set to approach the Better Food Foundation team in London and persuade them that Cornwall, in particular Watergate Bay, would be the ideal location for a second Fifteen restaurant in the UK.
By early 2005, the deal was done and Jamie was fully on board. Like all good stories this one had its fair share of tension and drama: a hectic building schedule to convert the top floor of the Beach Hut into a state of the art 120 cover restaurant and a relentless recruitment drive to appoint directors, managers, chefs and front of house staff for the restaurant, and trustees, and staff for the Cornwall Food Foundation. All within a narrow window ready for the May 2006 launch date.
With the teams in place came the biggest challenge of all, recruiting the first cohort of apprentice chefs. It was no easy task. There were over 300 applications for just 21 places. By January 06, after hundreds of phone calls, interviews, a boot camp and four months at Cornwall College studying NVQ1 in Catering we had our inaugural group of apprentice chefs. Job done.
Just nine months after we got the go-ahead from the Fifteen Foundation, and after so much hard work from everyone involved, we opened our doors to the world on 18th May 2006 with Jamie Oliver leading the celebrations. The world’s media turned up and the apprentices, thrust into the glare of the media spotlight, took it all in their stride.
Six years on and we’re going strong. In 2012 we were so proud to see 13 of the 16 apprentice chefs graduate, a record number. The teething problems of any new business are now behind us and as we grow we find ourselves facing new challenges. With the exception of a few sources of funding we’re now a fully self supporting business with a real need to drive profits to help fund further training of young people from Cornwall. That’s why it’s more important than ever that we keep innovating and making the most of the beautiful location and food we have at our disposal.