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Lexington apprentices put on their business hats as they take on trading challenge at Borough Market

On Friday 13 March, Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen apprentices and chefs from Lexington Catering’s apprenticeship scheme, Lex School of Talent, split into teams to compete for business at Borough Market.

To mark National Apprenticeship Week, 9th – 15th March, the apprentices had three days to plan and prepare hot food to sell at Borough Market in an ‘Apprentice’ style challenge.

Now in its seventh year, the challenge has been designed to help apprentices develop a valuable taste of the skills needed in a business environment. The teams were required to put knowledge into practice, thinking commercially in order to source their ingredients, pass the Borough Market tasting panel and sell their produce.

The apprentices started trading at the Market at 10am when they rang the bell to open the stall. They had until 3pm in the Green Market to sell as much as they could. The winning team raised over £800 and the apprentice chefs raised £1,244 in total, which they donated to Comic Relief.

All three teams served a meat/fish dish and a vegetarian option, with Vietnamese Summer Rolls and a warm Brisket Broth on the menu. But it was the taco with braised brisket and Mexican slaw, hot chilli sauce and cheese dish which was the winner on the day.

Murray Tapiki, Development Chef at Lexington said: “Our Lex School of Talent apprentices Jovon, Krishan and Jordan had five fabulous days with Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Apprentice Programme team, working and learning together as part of the Apprentice Challenge.

“The overall exercise puts the emphasis on the ability of all the apprentices, who are only six months into their studies, to think and act like professional accountants, project managers, HR and stall sellers – accomplishing all this in just five days. The chefs had to use fresh produce, source their own suppliers and create a dish that was different to anything else sold in the Market – they had to pass the strict quality guidelines of Borough Market, in addition to meeting the high expectations of Lexington and Fifteen.”  

Tromie Dodd, the Programme Manager at Fifteen’s Apprentice Programme said: “Yet again the annual Apprentice Challenge proved to be a highlight of the year. Collaborating with our Lexington colleagues is always a pleasure and seeing the apprentices work together to plan, prepare and produce a food product to sell in just 3 days was a roller coaster culminating in a fantastic day and over£1,200 for Comic Relief. Awesome!”

The competition offers a unique learning experience whilst having fun at the same time. It encourages apprentices to focus on a variety of skills required to progress in their career. These include commercial understanding, leadership, building working relationships and team work, organisation and planning, decision-making, problem-solving and time management.

Alex Economou, one of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen apprentice chefs and team leader of the winning team, said, “It was a really challenging week but I did enjoy it. It gave us all a good indication of what it’s like in the real world. We were given the kind of responsibility a senior chef would have, like delegating roles and handling finance. I felt I gained leadership skills and improved throughout the week. It’s the first time I’ve put myself in that sort of position. I’m quite a quiet person but I was really excited about this task. I felt over the moon when we won. I couldn’t believe it. Once we’ve come up with our idea, I was confident we’d do well.”

Krishan Makol, apprentice chef from Lexington Catering, also on the winning team, said, “The ‘Apprentice Challenge’ gave me a lot of opportunities to learn how to work best with other people and how to be a team player.

Working with Jamie’s apprentices has taught me how to control and manage my emotions better. It also taught me how to deal with different characters and their emotions in a mature and professional manner. It was an amazing experience.”