The Junior Chefs' Academy


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Name of Company:The Junior Chefs' Academy

Overview

The Junior Chefs' Academy, developed jointly with Thames Valley University (TVU) in 2003, was created to be a sustainable response to the lack of cookery teaching, increasing adolescent obesity, fewer young people considering the industry and London's need for enthusiastic, well-trained craftspeople. It currently operates in 5 London colleges (15 nationwide) and offers a real commitment to the development of young people while offering them an insight into the hospitality industry

Local school pupils attend on Saturday mornings for 12 weeks to learn basic cookery, nutrition, hygiene and health and safety, communication and social skills. Compass chefs coach at classes and students have visits from celebrity chefs such as Cyrus Todiwala, Brian Turner, Jean-Christophe Novelli, Ainsley Harriot and Raymond Blanc.

On the final Saturday, students cook and serve lunch for family and guardians at a graduation ceremony. Their graduation certificates are recognised and endorsed by City and Guilds, HCIMA and the Craft Guild of Chefs.

Management

After the trial at TVU, stakeholders including students, feeder-school teachers, college lecturers, parents and industry representatives were canvassed on the fine-tuning of the programme.

The steering group, which includes Compass Board members, craft trainers and college representative's, meets quarterly to review targets, approve budgets, measure and monitor progress and transfer best practise. Compass's foodservice and craft development manager meets with each college bi- monthly to review, monitor and advise and has informal contact on a monthly basis.

End of course questionnaires and discussions with students have identified lessons to be learned, which are shared with the colleges.

Participating colleges have built close links with their 'feeder' schools from where they recruit the junior chefs and communicate the JCA calendar at their link meetings. Lecturers discuss students' progress with their schools and highlight any exceptional performance and sometimes schoolteachers join the classes and benefit from ideas. Information about classes is distributed to parents and students while parents attend the graduation lunch to taste the results and watch the presentations. They leave with a brochure telling them more about the industry and Compass Group!

Impact

The JCA brings multiple benefits to a number of service users, including schools, colleges and young people. Since 2003, over 800 London school children (13-16) have graduated on completing a 12-week course, with an expected 1000 by the end of 2006. 70% of junior chefs convert to full time craft courses at TVU with the remaining colleges following suit, guaranteeing course futures.

"The incredible support provided by Compass has really helped establish the Junior Chefs' Academy as the place to be for many young people on Saturday mornings. We are certain that we have been witnessing the development of the hospitality and food industry's key talent of the future.

Westminster Kingsway College is proud to have played its role in the recruitment and training of such highly motivated groups of youngsters. It is really encouraging to see the rapidly increasing number of learners that enrol each time a new programme is offered. It is also good to see so many of the JCA's graduates progressing into full time training as professional chefs - as well as additional numbers joining work based Apprenticeship programmes too.

We are privileged to have been involved in the development of such a worthwhile programme, and acknowledge that this is a feeling shared by a great many parents, who we know benefit when the young chefs are let loose in their kitchen back in their homes!"

- Geoff Booth, Director of School of Hospitality, Westminster Kingsway College