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Chef apprenticeships are for everyone, not just for the young

Apprenticeships are understated. Their value to an individual and an organisation is far greater than people often realise. And there’s a misconception that apprenticeships are just aimed at young people but that’s simply not the case.

As National Apprenticeship Week kicks off Lexington Catering’s Development Chef, Murray Tapiki (MT), who is responsible for Lex School of Talent catches up with Louisa Kemp (LK), one of our fabulous apprentices. Louisa is in her first year of the apprentice programme.

MTHi Louisa! Tell me about your career path to date.

LK – Well, I’m 44 so I’ve developed a number of transferable skills and gained considerable work experience. I’ve done everything from working in a dark room for Kodak, managing street cleaners, dustbin men and women through to working in a control room for Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

MTThat’s quite a variety! How did you hear about Lexington’s apprenticeship programme, Lex School of Talent?

LK – I read about Lex School of Talent on the website and found a piece in The Caterer about the kind of organisation Lexington is and what the team are like to work for. Lexington seemed a really good organisation and the fact it is listed in The Sunday Times Top 100 Employers list was a real plus for me.

MT – Did you have any hospitality or catering experience prior to joining us?

LK – None, but I knew I would gain the knowledge and training on the apprenticeship programme to make an easy transition in to the industry.

MT – You chose to train as an apprentice chef, what made you want to do this?

LK – It was something I had wanted to do for a very long time, almost ten years, but circumstances meant I never had the opportunity. At school I studied Home Economics at G.C.S.E and A Level.

I’m more practical than academic and like jobs that are hands on and have a lot of variety. I don’t really enjoy sitting at a desk all day. So I decided to take a career change to do something that I would actually find interesting that would give me the most job satisfaction, something I could be passionate about. I love cooking.

MT – So here you are. Tell me more about what you do in your apprenticeship with Lexington.

LK – It’s been great, a real mix and very hands on. I am responsible for a section so I assume the role of chef de parte for the sandwich and deli section. I am responsible for ordering what I need for my section; I have my own fridge so I have to be conscious of labelling all items in the fridge.

Part of my daily activity is to prepare the smoothies (three types), the yoghurt pots (two types), vitalicious smoothes (three types), and seven varieties of sandwiches.

On a Monday I normally produce nearly 50 sandwiches! I also fill six croissants with different fillings. And I prepare the deli trolley, which offers a range of filled baguettes. I make these up fresh each day. I am also responsible for making granola and this can be quite hard work – the sheer volume (12 trays worth) takes up a whole oven! And involves breaking up the granola by hand!

MT – What are your favourite bits about the apprenticeship programme?

LK – Autonomy, hands down. I’m given so much freedom to manage my own section. There’s so much variety so boredom is a thing of the past! Aside from that I learn something new every day.

MT – What would you say are the top 3 qualities needed to become a chef?

LK – Time keeping, good work ethic and stamina!

You also need to be physically fit and be able to stand on your feat for long periods of time. Working in an industrial kitchen means the scale is magnified so you have to be prepared to operate large items of machinery.

MT – Any top tips to share with people considering an apprenticeship?

LK – If you are interested in becoming a chef just go for it! There are so many opportunities in food and it is a great career. In the current economic environment there is a real demand for chefs and if you work hard you can progress quickly.