A big welcome to Cohort 12

Next Monday, our new apprentice chefs from Cohort 12 start their first week in the Fifteen Cornwall kitchen.  This marks the next stage in their journey which started back in October with our recruitment activity day.

A shortlist of applicants were selected to join us at RAF St Mawgan where the 505 Wessex Squadron donated their time to set up a day of activities including cooking and tent building. The candidates were observed by our team from Fifteen Cornwall, Cornwall College and the Cornwall Food Foundation. Each applicant was interviewed by the foundation team and following consultation with all parties, 23 candidates were chosen to take to college.

On 5 December they started their Level 1 NVQ in Professional Cookery at Camborne College. For many of them in the past, the structure of formal education has been a challenge and they have struggled to adhere to the discipline and routine required. We work closely with college lecturer Tracy Page throughout the course as well as our own chefs, some of whom are graduates of the apprentice programme. Many of them have been down to meet the students at college already, to demonstrate masterclasses in pasta and pastry.

At the end of March, the candidates were shortlisted again and 10 students were chosen to join the Fifteen Cornwall Apprentice Programme.  The students who were not selected are given the opportunity to continue their Level 2 NVQ, or explore alternative apprenticeship options with the support of our Welfare and Support Worker and the college.

Cohort 12 begin their Level 2 NVQ in Professional Cookery next Thursday, during their first week in the kitchen. Tuesday is induction day where they have lunch in the restaurant and meet the team. For the first 10 weeks they will spend two weeks at a time on each section of the kitchen, closely mentored by our brigade of professional chefs, the black hats. This also includes off-site training with two of our suppliers, Padstow Kitchen Garden and Da Bara Bakery where they learn the provenance, production and supply of the produce we use in the kitchen.

During their time at Fifteen Cornwall, as well as one to one tuition in the kitchen to improve their cheffing knowledge and experience; they receive constant mentoring from Karl, our Training and Development Chef who gives encouragement and advice to help them progress. They are taken out of the kitchen to visit our suppliers on sourcing trips, to understand more about the ingredients we use in the kitchen and how they are produced. The highlight of the year is in November when they visit Tuscany and have the opportunity to visit our specialist Italian suppliers.

In addition to their professional experience, throughout the programme they are guided by Charlie, our Welfare and Support Worker who helps them to overcome their barriers to progression. These include personal issues, which may require specific specialist support from other professionals. Charlie works with various organisations to provide a collaborative approach to helping them resolve their issues and keep them on track.

When college finishes for the holidays, Charlie begins her summer programme to help the apprentices with their personal development; particularly relating to communication, teambuilding and confidence. In the past these have included going out on a fishing boat and cooking their catch, hiring tandem bikes, surfing lessons and beach games. The summer programme encourages them to try new things, push their boundaries and get them out of their comfort zone.

In March, after 11 months in our kitchen the apprentices go out into the big wide world on their work placements. We are lucky to have some great relationships with industry professionals in Cornwall and throughout the country who agree to offer our students the opportunity to further their experience. In the past, many of these placements have resulted in permanent job offers and we are extremely grateful to everyone for this.

At the beginning of May, the apprentices who have successfully completed the programme have their achievements celebrated at our Graduation. It’s an emotional time for them, their friends and family and for all of us at Fifteen Cornwall who have been with them on their journey. We are looking forward to this year’s graduation of Cohort 11 on 3 May. Gennaro Contaldo, Jamie Oliver’s mentor will be coming down to host the evening and present the apprentices with their certificates and personalised dog tags. There are also awards for the Apprentice of the Year and for Personal Development.

Whilst this marks the end of their journey with us, we are keen to maintain relationships with all our graduates and offer continued support throughout their careers.

Applications for Cohort 13 will open in the summer, so if you know anyone from Cornwall aged 16 – 24, who are looking for a second chance in life and are in need of an opportunity, please get in touch with the Cornwall Food Foundation on 01637 861000 (Opt 2) or email info@cornwallfoodfoundation.org