My chef apprenticeship with Jamie Oliver

Daryl, 17, is one of the youngest chefs to be trained at Jamie Oliver's London restaurant, Fifteen. He tells us what the 18-month apprenticeship entails and how it's changed his life for the better.

True Stories

apprentice cooking

"I've gone to places I never thought I would."

Life before my apprenticeship

I finished school last year and tried to get into various catering colleges and schools, but I didn’t get accepted on any of them. I then went on a training course to get an NVQ Level 1 in literacy and numeracy. At the end of the course I had the opportunity to work at the Acorn House Restaurant to build a herb garden. This had nothing to do with being a chef, but I agreed to do it because they said it could be a good opportunity work there in the future. Luckily, this happened and the head chef offered me an apprenticeship. Then I was also offered a place on the apprenticeship run by Jamie Oliver and as it’s such a well-known course, I decided to do that instead.

The apprenticeship

The course is aimed at 16 to 24 year-olds who’ve had problems with unemployment, drugs, alcohol or housing. It’s a chance to give young people the opportunity to work in some of the world’s best restaurants, and is something I’m extremely happy to be a part of. It involves training to get an NVQ Level 1 and 2 in Catering and Food Preparation, one month’s work experience at a top London restaurant, one year’s work experience at Fifteen London and a further two month’s work experience at another restaurant. I will be graded with a pass, merit or distinction at the end of the course.

The course has made me a happier person and a stronger believer. My Mum helped me apply after she knew I failed to get into college. I thought it would be impossible to get into Jamie’s apprenticeship, but luckily it was a lot easier than I imagined. Since I’ve been working at Fifteen we’ve had the opportunity to go to places I’d never have had the chance to go to, such as Peter Gott’s pig farms in the Lake District where Fifteen gets its meat from. We went to a potato farm and saw potatoes with different names and colours. We were also taken to egg farms and saw 32,000 chickens in a massive barn. You couldn’t hear anything because of all their clucking!

For one week of the 18 months we have to do pot washing, which is basically cleaning up. This week I’m being a waiter, where I’ll be serving food and trying to keep customers happy. Even though I love cooking and I’d rather do that, I’m happy to do it because when I’m in the kitchen I have no clue what’s happening in the main restaurant. Even though I’ve only been waiting for a day, it’s already making more sense and I have more understanding of the waiters’ point of view. It’s definitely a lot easier to communicate when you know what everyone is doing.

A passion for cooking

When I was nine I fried my first egg and it gave me such a thrill. I just loved it. Ever since that I wanted to cook everything and anything and my Mum would help me to learn about food. In school the only thing that I paid attention to was food technology.

I enjoy every single thing in the kitchen, from cooking to whisking, to slicing meat and bread. The only thing I don’t like is making the kitchen spotless at the end of the night! You’ve got to scrub down, dry, wipe down and sanitise and it takes about half an hour when all I want to do is go home.

I’m one of the youngest in my group of mates and they all think I’m very good for sticking at my apprenticeship at this age. Who knows, by the time I’m 24 or 25, I could be a Sous-chef with a good few year’s worth of experience. Luckily I’ve got lots of time to learn.

Future career ambitions

It might sound a bit corny, but I would like to cook for the poor and starving because they would never be able to eat as well as most of us. It isn’t too expensive in this restaurant and the average person could easily save up to have three courses here, but it’s not as if the homeless and the starving can do the same.

My favourite chef has got to be Jamie Oliver because he’s the chef that made my dreams come true. I’ve wanted to be a chef from when I was small and this is the best course you could go on to get noticed. I would’ve been happy to go to college, but I’m here at Fifteen, working on an apprenticeship and getting my NVQ Level 2 in cheffing. After this I’ll hopefully be able to work in any restaurant in the world with Jamie’s name on my CV.

Photo of cooking by Shutterstock

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015