Apprentice Niamh Armitage

AGE: 16
JOB TITLE: Apprentice Commis Chef at Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf & Spa
APPRENTICESHIP: Commis Chef Level 2
MONTH STARTED: September 2019
END DATE: December 2020

I didn’t apply for an apprenticeship the typical way...

I did a one-week work experience placement when I was 15 through my school (John F Kennedy School) in the pastry department at Luton Hoo. I absolutely loved it and at the end of my internship I was offered the opportunity to return for more work experience, which I did in my own time during the summer holidays.

Everyone was very welcoming, I had a great time and learned lots. Mark Rainbow, the estate head chef, looked after me while I was working in pastry. After that I was offered an apprenticeship. I didn’t even need to attend a proper interview as the hotel already knew me and took me on straight away. My parents and I visited the hotel on a few occasions while I was still completing my GCSEs to find out more about apprenticeship opportunities and the best colleges.

Over a year after my work experience I then returned to Luton Hoo to start my apprenticeship. It is with Westminster Kingsway College as Luton Hoo is in partnership with the college. Westminster Kingsway has a fantastic reputation in the industry, and I was very excited to start there.

One day a week I go to college and learn all the technical skills needed to become a chef.

There are 13 apprentices in my class and we all work at different hotels. I am the youngest in the class. I am off for two days a week and then the other four days I spend at Luton Hoo. I am working in pastry where I am learning to prepare and plate all of our afternoon tea cakes and at the moment I start at 9am and finish at 5pm.

After Christmas I will be moving to the next part of the kitchen, where I will learn how to prepare the afternoon tea sandwiches, where all apprentices at Luton Hoo start to learn the basics. After that I will be working in the Fine Dining, Brasserie and Banqueting kitchens. It’s great as I get to work everywhere and learn all the different skills and service styles.

I am currently learning about our new afternoon tea menu.

The hotel has moved from the summer to the autumn afternoon tea menu. I am also learning how to make crémeux, which I have never done before. I am getting much better at managing my time; in the beginning it was really tricky as everything was new and I didn’t have a lot of skills, so I was much slower, but I am getting better every day.

I love the fact that I will be working in all the five kitchens at Luton Hoo

Lounge, Banqueting, Fine Dining, Brasserie and Pastry. I get to experience everything. Everyone is showing me stuff all the time, they know I have never done anything like it before and every time something new or a particular skill comes up, they teach me how to do it, which is amazing! It is great working with all these experienced chefs and learning from them. We also have so much fun in pastry, we laugh all the time.

I’m not sure exactly how my career will look

but I definitely want to do a Level 3 Chef de Partie apprenticeship next. I will try and go as far as I possibly can, I just want to keep going. Hopefully one day I can be an executive chef in a five-star hotel or Michelin-star restaurant.

Initially my inspiration came from my aunt, who runs a large catering events company and that is who first introduced me to the industry. After that I just got excited when I went to five-star hotels and saw their desserts and afternoon tea cakes. I also watched Bake Off: The Professionals and I loved it so much I decided to start baking and started to develop a real passion for pastry, which is what led to my work experience at Luton Hoo. My mum initially wanted me to do A-Levels and to have a more academic base, but she realised how passionate I was and that you don’t necessarily need A-levels to succeed in hospitality. Hopefully I’ll come up with some wacky flavour combinations and try out some new exciting things.

Published in Hotel Food And Beverage Magazine. November 2019

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