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Spotlight on Young Chefs Taking Charge

Ten years ago the number of pupils studying food subjects in the UK was over 96,000.  In less than 9 years this figure has more than halved to 43,000.  Today 30% of students don’t have access to any food subjects at school.  Think about that for a second.

Where is the next generation of chefs going to come from to fill the skills gap in our hospitality industry?    With little or no access to cookery or kitchen skills and an ever-increasing reliance on ready prepared and processed pre-packaged foods, the skills shortage is growing whilst the pool of young chefs is declining.

The Future is in Good Hands

The picture isn’t all doom and gloom, however.  The growth of industry partnerships with local schools and colleges, the Chefs in Schools programme and Springboard’s FutureChef programme all lead the way in promoting hospitality and particularly cooking and food preparation, as a great place to work.

We caught up with three aspiring chefs, Catrin Manning, Jess Mitchell and Ray Gardner, who took part in the Springboard FutureChef programme, to great success, and who cooked for over 500 guests at our 2019 People Awards at the Park Plaza Hotel, Westminster, London.

Cooking up Gold Medals in Wales

Catrin Manning is 18 and represented Wales at the Futurechef final in both 2017 and 2018, which she went on to win. Since then she has been busy promoting hospitality and cooking to other young people and has spoken to over 100 school children at a Hospitality Takeover in Bristol, encouraging them to consider a career in the industry.

When not inspiring young people, Catrin has been kept busy cooking at the Henley Royal Regatta, worked at the Royal Garden Hotel, delivered a cooking demonstration at the Royal Welsh Show, and experienced cooking in different environments from professional kitchens, a temporary kitchen in a large tent and on stage.

She’s also found time to judge the 2020 Welsh regional final of Futurechef and reached the final of the Cogurdd, (Welsh cooking competition within the National Eisteddfod), where she won gold in 2018 and 2019.

With such a full diary Catrin hasn’t finalised what she plans to use her grant for.  She commented,  ‘With regards to the £500, I think I’m going to do a course in chocolate work or confectionery, but haven’t had time to decide yet.’

French Cuisine is my Inspiration

Jess Mitchell is only 15 but has already carved out quite a reputation. Crowned Futurechef Winner of 2019 Jess has been very clear that she is planning to use her winning year to gain as much experience as possible in as many kitchens as possible.

Jess commented, ‘My long-term goal is to own two restaurants, one in London and one in Glasgow.  I plan to study both professional cookery and business to achieve this.  In the meantime, I’m concentrating on gaining as much experience as possible in lots of kitchens and developing my cooking skills.’

Since her win Jess has cooked at the world-renowned Gleneagles Hotel and the highlight of Jess’s year was cooking for Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at her official residence Bute House.

Jess is going to use her grant from to gain work experience across France this summer.  Her focus is on Lyon and Paris where she wants to gain new skills and inspiration, as well as a grounding in classic French cuisine.

There’s no Stopping this Young Chef!

Ray Gardner’s CV reads like someone who has been in the hospitality industry for over 20 years but he’s only 16!  Roux Fine Dining, The Frog by Adam Handling, Tate Gallery Switch House, and the London Stadium Restaurant all appear as places this young chef has already cooked.

Ray has been mentored by some of the finest chefs in the business and has made it through to 2020 FutureChef final to be held in March.

We asked Ray what his highlights were? “My college placement as Chef de Partie at Westminster College and my apprenticeship at Roux Fine Dining, which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t entered Futurechef at school, have got to be highlights in an amazing year.

Let’s inspire a Generation (and fill a skills gap) 

Hospitality is an industry that suits creative, intuitive and hardworking people with a strong desire to learn. These three young cooks are inspiring everyone they meet and are benefiting from a willingness by industry partners to get involved, supporting and mentoring them at each stage of their development.

Nurturing a pipeline of young talent and engaging with school children, before they decide against a career in hospitality, can play a vital role in resolving any future recruitment or skills gaps within hospitality.

With on-going labour shortages now is the time for every employer to take direct and positive action to enable young people to enter the sector.

Top Tips:

  1. Engage with local schools and colleges and don’t be afraid to seek out, support and mentor rising stars.
  2. Get parents involved – over 14,500 young people took part in FutureChef 2019, supported by proud parents and guardians.
  3. Training and development are the key to retention and offering apprenticeships to aspiring young chefs is a great way to build on brand loyalty
  4. Seek out opportunities to meet young people by offering skills events, open days, workshops and cooking demonstrations in schools. Share information on entry level talent roles, apprenticeship and work experience opportunities.'s Entry Level Talent Campaign with Tom Aikens