Lexington Catering, an award-winning food and service management company that provides catering for businesses in London and the South East, runs an annual appreticeship scheme for aspiring chefs in association with Springboard and the Univesty of West London. The Lex School of Talent has produced many outstanding chefs some of whom have won awards during their apprenticeships and beyond. The latest is the newly crowned Lexington Chef of the Year, Emily Clark, who started her chef career as an apprentice with Lexington just a few short years ago.
Here we interview James Roberston, just starting out as an apprentice chef with Lexington. We learn some valuable insights into how to become an apprentice and what it means to James and his career.
1. What type of apprenticeship are you doing (e.g. Level 2 Professsional Cookery)?
Professional Cookery Level 2 Intermediate Apprenticeship.
2. How did you hear about your apprenticeship?
I met the Lexington team in 2014: they visited my secondary school to assist with the delivery of the Jamie Oliver Give and Gain day. Not long after this I did a week’s summer work placement with Lexington Catering at one of their branches in Canary Wharf. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and gained so many different skills during the week – this made me even more passionate!
After my week work placement with Lexington I just knew that it was the company for me – I have always had a passion for food and joining Lexington as an apprentice was one of my proudest moments. I love what they are about – they use fresh, local, seasonal ingredients to create delicious food across loads of different sites around London.
I have had to make some pretty tough decisions in my life so leaving school to join the Lex School of Talent was not a hard decision for me. I know that Lexington will look after me and with their help I will go on to be a successful chef – potentially being able to pass my skills onto other young children and trainee chefs.
One thing people don’t seem to realise is that as a chef it doesn’t feel like we have left school; every day you learn something new. A dish you might do well can be done hundreds of different ways by other chefs! I have the honour of working at Cass Business School, in Moorgate, with head chef David Evans. David is very helpful and dedicates as much of his time to help mentor and support me! The whole team at Cass are a pleasure to work with – they already feel like my own little family!
3. What experience in the hospitality industry did you have before starting your apprenticeship?
I attended George Greens secondary school in East London (Isle of Dogs). The school gave me the opportunity to choose Food Technology as a GCSE, which was fantastic – the course was challenging but so much fun at the same time! I had to chose a country then pick well known dishes that originate from that country, then I had to choose just one to cook for my final exam and change the ingredients slightly to make it my own. My food tech teacher, Miss Hughes, helped me a lot! She was inspirational and helped me grow in confidence in working with food and working around other people. She spent time with me after school supporting me to complete my coursework so I could get a good mark on it at the end of the course. I successfully finished the course with a coursework grade of A* and a final grade of a B!
4. Why did you want to train as an apprentice?
After meeting Lexington in 2014, they just seemed like the right company for me, which is why I chose to apply for Lex School of Talent for my post-16 pathway. I was so right to choose them – training as an apprentice means I get a full insight into what day to day work is like for a chef and get to take part in all tasks that need to be done in the kitchen. Training as an apprentice with Lexington means I get the access to amazing training opportunities and the support I need to become a top chef. I am also guaranteed a job with them once I finish the course. Training as an apprentice means that I get a full insight into working life whilst gaining a qualification!
5. How did you come to be placed at the company you are in?
After meeting Lexington last year I stayed in touch and contacted them to find out more about their apprenticeship programme, Lex School of Talent. Thankfully I received an email early June asking me if I would like to have an interview for their apprenticeship scheme and after having an interview with Murray Tapiki, Development Chef at Lexington, I was told that I had been recommended by the team I did my work experience with last year! This is the best decision I have ever made and I am so thankful that I am now part of such a wonderful company!
6. Describe a typical work day on your apprenticeship.
I arrive at work around 7a.m., cook breakfast and send it down to the restaurant. At 8am - 8:15a.m. I start prep for the day: sandwich fillings and grab and go snacks! I also help the other chefs with anything that needs doing, making sure everything is ready to be sent down before 11a.m. It’s then my role to keep on top of things, making sure nothing runs out! I finish at 3:30p.m. every day and then it’s the same the next day – just different food sometimes.
7. Who provides your study element with?
Lexington Catering and the University West London
8. What do you enjoy most about being on an apprentice?
I get the training I need and get paid for doing something I am passionate about! There is nothing better than doing something you love with a company you love. I come home every day with a smile on my face - this is such a great experience for me and I don’t know where else I would be if it did not come my way!
9. What do you want to do after your apprenticeship is over?
I wish to stay with Lexington and pursue a successful career with them as they are the company who have set me on my journey to becoming a fabulous chef. I wish to complete my journey with them and help others to complete it!
I have always loved helping other people – I have been a member of a well-known organisation, St John Ambulance, since I was 10 years old! I am fully FA Qualified and was Cadet of the Year for East London 2014-15. With Lexington’s support I want to help other apprentices succeed – this is only the beginning!
10. What would you consider to be your strongest quality?
Enthusiasm – I am a real team player, committed to giving everything a try and completing it to the best of my ability.
11. Describe a challenge that you have overcome.
A challenge that I have overcome is a challenge that everyone faces every day, having to meet new people who will be your friends, teachers, work colleagues etc. Becoming more confident in meeting new people has enabled me to show my true self and it has created new opportunities.
12. Why would you recommend an apprenticeship to other young people?
It is such a great thing to get into! I chose it because I knew it would opens up a wider opportunities and create a future for me – doing an apprenticeship means you can start doing what you love early and you have a better chance getting a job with the same company, once you finish the course!
So I am sure you have had those dreams that come when you’re sleeping – you just start getting into it and there goes your alarm clock and you wake up…you just wish you stayed sleeping because that dream will never come again! All I am saying is that when someone offers to give you a go at something say ‘yes’ because you might never get that opportunity again!