Bristol chefs Josh Eggleton and Adrian Kirikmaa have joined forces with Weston College, St Katherine’s School and Ashton Gate Stadium to address the ever growing issue of attracting recruitment into the hospitality industry – creating the South West’s newest vocational programme for chefs.

The School of Food is open to young people looking for an entry point into the industry, as well as those already working within restaurants, hotels and food businesses. The course will be taught by chefs, offering apprenticeships with the best establishments in the South West and offering visits to food producers, artisans and the opportunity to cook at high-profile events and locations.

Students will complete a 12-month course, undertaking the Commis Chef Standard Intermediate Apprenticeship at Level 2. Once completed this opens the door to a host of future opportunities as Bristol’s food and drink scene continues to boom, with a huge number of new openings in the last year alone.

The region’s success will be short-lived if restaurateurs cannot bring new talent into their kitchens. The hospitality industry has been experiencing a huge drop in recruitment and retention for many years now. Trade experts estimate that the industry will need to recruit 1.3million new staff by 2024 in order to fuel market growth. However the chef shortage is now reaching a critical stage – restaurants up and down the country have been reducing operational hours due to staff shortages, and many have simply closed under the pressure.

Josh Eggleton, chef patron at The Pony & Trap, had this to say: “The chef shortage is by no means a new thing, it’s been bubbling away for years. For so long people have been talking about why it’s happening, but hardly anyone has looked at how we can fix this. The School of Food is kind of the antithesis to that; it’s all about bringing through the future of the industry. This apprenticeship will give participants more time in professional kitchens, designed to inspire chefs and show them just what they can achieve and really set them up for success in what is an incredibly rewarding and creative industry.”

The curriculum will cover everything from food preparation and nutrition through to chef and knife skills, food knowledge, how to take stock and even the financial aspects of working in a kitchen. Applications for the apprenticeship are now being taken, and students will be mentored by a professional chef who will provide regular assessments and workplace visits to monitor progress. Students will have the chance to use state-of-the-art facilities at The Grove Restaurant at Weston College, The Leaf at Ham Green run by St Katherine’s School and Ashton Gate Stadium which, since it’s redevelopment, has become the largest conference and hospitality events venue in the South West.

St Katherine’s School – the only secondary school in the UK with its own fine-dining restaurant and professional kitchen – and Weston College have designed the training and lesson plans apprentices will follow and collaborated on a successful pilot at the school in Ham Green. “We pride ourselves on delivering a curriculum designed by industry, for industry, and this unique partnership will help us to deliver relevant training opportunities that provide young people and adults with a real chance to succeed in such a dynamic industry,” said Dr Paul Phillips CBE, principal and chief executive at Weston College Group.

Adrian Kirikmaa, head chef at St Monica’s Trust added; “We’ve been working closely with chefs, producers and educators to design a curriculum we feel will really benefit young chefs and give them all the tools they need to succeed. What we’re looking to do with The School of Food is to pair practical skills and food knowledge with actual industry experience in professional kitchens. This is a vocational apprenticeship; however we’ll be taking a more tailored individual approach. Students will be placed into establishments that will appeal to their own ambitions; whether that’s an artisan bakery, a five-strong gastropub team or a 35-strong commercial kitchen in a large operation.