In 1990, I had an English restaurant in Chelsea called Drakes at Pond Place. I found myself frustrated that homegrown talent was not considering the exciting opportunities that a career in the hospitality industry had to offer, so I founded a charity called Springboard. Springboard promotes the hospitality industry to potential new recruits and those who influence career choices, along with helping young, disadvantaged and unemployed people turn their lives around through into-work programmes, work experience and introductions to the many leading employers we work with in the sector.
One of Springboard’s initiatives was FutureChef which started in 2000 with 150 school children in London competing in a cooking competition. Last year, we involved over 12,000 12-16 year olds right across the UK in the programme, which culminates in 12 finalists battling it out for the title of FutureChef Champion. Our finalists, many of whom had never thought of entering the industry, consistently go on to work with the UK’s leading chefs including Raymond Blanc, Michel Roux Jnr and John Williams at the Ritz. One winner, Luke Thomas, was the youngest person ever to be chef patron of his own restaurant, has appeared on Great British Menu, published a cook book, has a franchise operation in the Middle East and now has his own club in Soho – and he’s still only 25!
FutureChef supports the food curriculum in schools as well as providing a pipeline of culinary talent into the vibrant hospitality industry where young people with talent can progress really quickly whether they have a university degree or not. Apart from the competition, we provide a programme of interactive resources, supported by active engagement in schools from our network of professional chefs who help schools equip their students with important life skills such as nutrition, healthy eating and cooking from fresh food. This leads many to consider the hospitality industry as a future career, not just in the kitchen but front of house in a range of different roles, with every expectation of joining the management team, which is hungry for people with good interpersonal skills who enjoy working as a team player.
Our into-work programmes have been life changing for young people who have got into trouble through family breakdowns, alcohol, drugs or long term unemployment. We have been active in the Paddington Development Trust area where the Stowe Centre is situated so, apart from the possibility of involving school students in the FutureChef programme, there may be opportunities for helping some of the young people who pass through the Centre.
Springboard would welcome involvement from Old Stoics who find this article resonates with them. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org