My cooking apprenticeship with Jamie Oliver

Apprenticeships can be really exciting and a great way to learn about the industry you’re thinking of getting into. Just ask Daryl, a 17 year old chef-in-training who was given the chance of a lifetime when he was an apprentice to none other than Jamie Oliver. Read on to hear about his story.

True Stories

A young man is doing a cooking apprenticeship. This is a full-body image.

Life before my cooking apprenticeship

It took a while to get the cooking apprenticeship. After I finished school last year, I immediately tried to get into various catering colleges and schools. Unfortunately, I didn’t get accepted on any of them. So I decided to go on a training course to get an NVQ Level 1 in literacy and numeracy in the hopes that it would boost my applications. At the end of the course I was given the opportunity to work at the Acorn House Restaurant to build a herb garden. 

Of course, this had nothing to do with being a chef, but I still agreed to do it. They told me that it could be a good opportunity to work there in the future and I wasn’t really in a position to pass up work. Luckily, things ended up going my way and the head chef offered me an apprenticeship. At the same time, I was also offered a place as a chef apprentice on a course run by Jamie Oliver. And since Oliver is such a well-known chef I decided to accept his offer 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 for young people to work in some of the world’s best restaurants. Honestly, it’s something I’m extremely proud to be a part of. Getting there wasn’t easy though. I had/still have to get an NVQ Level 1 and 2 in Catering and Food Preparation. On top of that I have to get one month’s work experience at a top London restaurant and one year’s work experience at Fifteen London. Plus a further two month’s work experience at another restaurant. And I’ll be graded with a pass, merit or distinction at the end of the course.

Without a doubt, the course has made me a happier person. My Mum helped me apply after she knew I failed to meet the entry requirements for college. I thought it would be impossible to get into Jamie’s apprenticeship, but luckily that turned out to be the self-doubt talking. Since I’ve been working at Fifteen we’ve had the opportunity to go to some amazing places. This includes Peter Gott’s pig farms in the Lake District where Fifteen gets its meat from and a potato farm with a huge variety of, you guessed it, potatoes.We were also taken to egg farms and saw 32,000 chickens in a massive barn. The only problem was you couldn’t hear anything because of all their clucking!

Moving around

For one week of the 18 months we have to do pot washing, which is basically cleaning up. This week I’m a waiter. So I’ll be serving food and trying to keep customers happy. Even though I love preparing food and would choose that over running around the restaurant any day, I’m not complaining. Usually when I’m in the kitchen I have no clue what’s happening in the main restaurant. So it’s nice to get a better understanding of the waiters’ point of view. Plus, it’s definitely a lot easier to communicate when you have an idea of what everyone is doing.

A passion for cooking

This is gonna sound kinda cliché, but when I was nine I fried my first egg and it gave me such a thrill. I can’t really explain it, I just know that I loved it. Ever since then I wanted to cook everything and anything and my Mum encouraged me the entire time. Not to mention, in school the only thing that I paid attention to was food technology.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I enjoy every single thing in the kitchen; from cooking to figuring out exact portion sizes, to slicing meat and bread. The only thing I don’t like is having to leave the kitchen spotless at the end of the night! You’ve got to scrub down, dry, wipe down and sanitise which takes about half an hour. And, at that point, 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 pretty cool for sticking at my apprenticeship at this age. Who knows, by the time I’m 24 or 25, I could be a Chef de Partie, Sous-chef, commis chef or even a senior chef. Luckily I’ve got loads of time to learn and collect as much information as I can.

Career ambitions after my cooking apprenticeship

I would really like to cook for the poor and starving because I know that they would never be able to eat as well as most of us. Even though it isn’t too expensive in this restaurant and the average person could easily save up to have three courses here, that doesn’t mean everyone can

My favourite chef has got to be Jamie Oliver because he’s the chef that made my dreams come true (totally not biased). I’ve wanted to be a chef ever since I was a kid and this is the best course you could go on to get noticed. Don’t get me wrong, I would’ve been happy to go to college, but this is so much better. I’m here at Fifteen, working on a cooking apprenticeship and getting my NVQ Level 2 in cheffing. After this, with Jamie’s name on my CV, hopefully I’ll be able to work in any restaurant in the world.

A note from The Mix: Looking for some career advice? Check out the rest of The Mix’s work and study resources here. And for more info on internships, work experience and training, check out The Mix’s resources here.

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By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 08-Jun-2022