Below are the reports of three Northampton College students, helped by the John Banner Scholarship Fund to experience unique work placements with top Michelin starred chefs in 2014:
Work experience at the Paris House, Woburn.
By Beth Fry
My work experience placement was held at Paris House working with a team under Head Chef, Phil Fanning. Paris House is a 1 star Michelin restaurant found in the grounds of Woburn Abbey.
The placement was 5 days long, working split shifts between 8.30 and 10.30
I was filling in as Commis Chef, a position I have had experience in, in other kitchens at college, work and in previous placements. Working at Paris House was a tremendously enjoyable experience. I learnt a lot from the chefs in the kitchen, and was given the opportunity to prepare exciting dishes within the varied menu.
I have had previous exposure to the working environment of other first class and Michelin star restaurants, though this was by far the best. Although service was fast paced, everyone knew their role and was supportive of one another. It was clear that the chefs were happy working at Paris House and this reflected in the working environment and quality of dishes produced.
On my first day I arrived at 10am I met the head chef Phil and was introduced to the other chefs, and given an overview of the menu and sittings. I then worked until 10.30pm doing a variety of Jobs in the pastry and larder sections. During the first sitting I was nervous and felt a bit lost and in awe of working with such talented chefs, but I was quickly given jobs and kept busy plating up the starters.
I finished at 10.30 which even though the day wasn’t that long compared to how they will be when I join the industry full-time, I was absolutely exhausted.
My 2nd day was a lot easier as I felt a lot more confident today and tried loads of different foods, pigs heart and salmon eggs being the most unusual. I got to fillet fish, a lot bigger then what I’m used to! On evening service I was allowed to run the canapé section by myself, which was great fun and I was particularly proud that I was trusted with it.
Most days were long and tiring but the adrenalin and excitement of working here kept me going and I didn’t even notice, the time just flew by! On other days I was allowed to choose sections to get involved in and besides larder and pastry I was allowed to work on the stove section alongside some of the other chefs and saw first-hand the most fast paced but very rewarding section of the kitchen. I also shadowed the head chef plating at service, I was able had to try everything that was sent up if it wasn’t good enough it was given back, the standard was exceptional!
Work experience has been an important and enriching part of the Catering & Hospitality level 3 course at Northampton College. It has taught me a lot about the varied nature of the hospitality industry, and quality of work produced at the highest level. It has allowed me the opportunity to make decisions on the direction and path I wish to pursue when I join the industry full-time.
The most exciting news is I, out of this work placement, I have been offered a job at Paris House, when I complete my Advanced professional Chef course in July. I am very excited for what the future holds and I am looking forward to developing and growing as a chef.
Work experience at Purnells, Birmingham.
By Kyran Dale
I have recently enjoyed and opportunity to work for a week long ‘stage’ at Purnells restaurant in Birmingham. I have been an avid fan of Glynn Purnells cooking style for many years having first seen him on the Great British Menu on TV. I have always thought of his cooking style as being exciting and innovative and was delighted to gain the opportunity of a stage at his restaurant.
When I went to Purnells, I worked on several different sections including larder, stove and pastry. My favourite dish was something called "eggs and cream" which was a mushroom hollandaise with a poached egg yolk on top, topped with a milk foam and grated truffle. This dish was particularly inspiring as Glynn Purnell try's to take inspiration for his menus from his childhood and adapt them to today's class of Michelin star dining. The reason why I chose Purnells is because I've always followed him as a chef and I have always admired the dishes he has created ,how he takes something simple like his childhood favourites and turns them into something amazing. On my first day I was rather nervous upon arriving at the restaurant, as soon as I started working I was at ease. The kitchen team there were very helpful and they were also very friendly ,they made it Incredibly easy for me to work there. I arrived at the restaurant at about 8:30 am and worked till 11pm with a 2 hour break between 4-6pm,the days were long and hard but time flew by as I was having so much fun and learning a lot of new techniques.
Glyn Purnell himself was very interested in where I was from and what my aspirations are. He was very keen on helping me learn as much as I could when I was there, he helped me take on board some key skills. He was also very interested In what I was planning to do when I finished college ,when he asked about my aspirations I told him in the future I hope to attain a Michelin star of my own and to reach his level ,but in the near future I hope to get my foot in the door with a Michelin star Commis chef job and carry on my development.
The placement itself helped me with things such as my confidence and development as it showed me personally that I am good enough to work within a Michelin star environment, have the right temperament to cope with the pressure and more than anything it has confirmed the direction I want my career to go in; that being a Michelin started career path.
My skills have improved as I now try to compete tasks quicker with more precision in execution of tasks and neater mis en place. Having been at Purnell’s for a week it has definitely confirmed where I want to be and it has definitely made me 100% likely to work in a restaurant such as this one.
If someone asked me about work experience I would say definitely, go for it, because every chef is constantly developing, and the more experiences you get in different kitchens the more skills you will attain and the better all-round chef you will become.
Overall I would say the week was a great experience for myself, if I had the chance to, I would definitely go back possibly to work full time. As I was working at Purnell’s I took down lots of different recipes and I developed a dish using a combination of Purnell’s different dishes, I created a Szechuan pepper sous vide monk fish dish with confi baby carrots and asparagus with goats cheese royale and salt baked celeriac pureè and a reduction sauce.
I presented this dish to my fellow students and they then copied this and used their own presentation techniques. I feel they were inspired as they saw the amount I learnt when I was away and they wanted to have the same experience as me.
Work experience at the Paris House, Woburn.
by Sophie Fountain
Work experience at Paris House was defiantly a good eye opener for my future career. Before then I didn't have a clear idea of what I wanted to do after leaving college. But it has defiantly created more career paths that I could take, and given me a better idea of what to do.
I would recommend working stages to anyone as it is hugely beneficial, it builds confidence and allows you to learn lots of new things whilst you are there.
I enjoyed every moment there, I helped with the plating the dishes up and also I learnt so many new skills to use in the future. Any questions I had ... They were willing to answer in the best way they could.
The team at Paris House were lovely, as soon as I turned up, they were all so welcoming and wanted me to get involved with the prep within 10 minutes of me being there. Working here allowed me to understand the importance of planning, organisation and teamwork in a kitchen. I was amazed by the dedication and care that went into every dish and each Chef paying attention to detail to ensure every component met the exacting standards of the Chef. The enthusiasm and passion for food and cooking was infectious and has really helped me decide the type of restaurant I want to work in when I have completed my course.
I would definitely go on more working stages if I get the opportunity to, it is just so helpful and it enables your name to get across the different establishments. If you’re lucky you may even get a job opportunity for when you leave college.
Report from Molly Prior on working at the Royal Automobile Club (January / February 2016) - "I would firstly like to thank you for you kind generosity in giving me funding towards my travel costs to my work experience at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, London. I attended the club for four days, Monday to Thursday and worked in several different places within the club, completing different tasks and working with very talented members of staff. I travelled back and forth from my work experience each day and arrived at the club at 9am each day to start. On Monday and Tuesday I worked in the pastry kitchen with various very talented chefs. Within this kitchen a lot of preparation was done ready for service and events that were taking place within the club. When working in the kitchen on both days I completed a lot of preparation such as making treacle sponges for service, different items for petit fours and garnish for desserts that would be composed in service. Working in this kitchen was very rewarding and enjoyable as this specific area within catering is something that I am very passionate about. Whilst working in the pastry kitchen I was also given to opportunity to work in a lunchtime service, which was very fast paced and enjoyable. All desserts had been previously made, but were plated up and garnished in the service kitchen. I really enjoyed doing this and seeing how different dessert were made and composed at the club. I have also attached some photographs of desserts that I plated up within this service as well.
On the Wednesday I got an amazing opportunity of working with two very talented chefs from France that had come to the club for a promotion that was taking place that weekend. When working with the chefs I was mainly doing preparation of vegetables, fruits, sauces and croquettes as all preparation was taking place and needed to be done, ready for the start of the promotion. Working with the chefs was a very rewarding and educational experience as they had a lot of knowledge behind them and used different techniques and processes from other chefs that worked at the club.
On my final day at the club I worked with a young chef who cooked for the staff restaurant. I really enjoyed doing this, as it was something I hadn’t done whilst at my placement and found it very similar to things I do at college and therefore felt comfortable in doing this. I made things such as fish pie, lasagne, beef pie and many other things too, in preparation for lunch and the following day as well. I really enjoyed working in this part of the club as I learnt many new skills, but could also develop and improve on ones that I already had as well.
Overall I had an amazing time whilst completing my work experience at the Royal Automobile Club in London and have gained many new, professional and knowledgeable skills that will help benefit my time at college and a future career. Once again I am very grateful for your generosity in giving me the funding towards my travel in order for me to be able to attend and complete my work experience and would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to do so".
The Ritz Hotel Work Experience - Report By Charlotte Hedaux (January / February 2016)
I cannot hesitate the appreciation I have for being able to have my work experience at the worlds most prestigious hotel. The experience surpassed my expectations and was overwhelming at times and I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been able to experience the operations that are needed to successfully perform in a successful business. The chefs themselves were very inspirational and encouraging towards my learning and development and were very prompt and informative whenever I asked a question. On my return to college, I had time to look back at my achievements whilst at The Ritz. As a result of this opportunity I have been able to identify exactly what i want to pursue in my future career.
During my time at The Ritz London I was able to explore so many different areas of the kitchens. In the first week they showed me how to to prepare unique and different types of vegetables. The majority of them were used for preparation for service and the rest were kept for another use. They demonstrated so many techniques which I was then able to perform myself. I also learnt so many new varieties of food, such as Romanesco. In the second week I was able to show my passion and enthusiasm for patisserie. I was aloud to be part of the Afternoon Tea team. I was able to assist and help the chefs and I was able to make a selection of the cakes that they produce. In result I was very pleased as well as proud as I was even allowed to take them home with me to share my work with my family.
I would like to thank you very much for funding money for me to travel and for my accommodation during my stay at The Ritz. I am very grateful, it was an experience of a life time in which I will reflect on with much pride and enjoyment. I consider myself honoured to be able to say I participated in my work placement there.
With much appreciation and thanks,
Study Trip at La Villa Hotel Mombaruzzo, Italy, July 2018 - Report by Dean Burnham, North Warwickshire and Hinckley College
Well what an experience it was. As a young aspiring chef it was a great opportunity for me to further my skills and learn the lifestyle and the food industry out in Italy.
I went out there with Ian Simpson who has worked alongside with chefs such as Albert Roux and Gordon Ramsey to try and learn as I much as I could off of him. Not only did he teach me Italian cuisine but a bit of English and French cuisine but what surprised me the most was how much he taught me about the Italian culture and the difference between the way they live and the way we live.
However obviously the main reason I was going out there was to further my skills as a chef and learn as much as I possibly could and I certainly learnt a lot in just the 5 weeks. Especially the difference between northern and southern Italian cuisine due to the fact I was asking a lot of questions of what I thought I knew about the food we were preparing and he taught me why the different regions produce different type of food. So I was learning more of the piemontasy region which uses more butter and more stuffed pastas. For example we did a lot of agnolotti plin with sage butter.
There was plenty that I learnt throughout the weeks, I could go on for ages. The weddings were a big learning curve because there was so few kitchen staff, to do a wedding for 90 people was difficult to begin with but eventually I got used to it and learnt you just had to get your head down and work hard and not that I didn’t already do that, but I personally didn’t realise how hard it would be for such a small group.
It was brilliant making new friends, learning all kinds of simple but effective food at the same time as the fine dine. While I was out there in fact I was doing 5 days a week which gave me 2 days off a week which gave me the opportunity to go visit places and learn even more by dining at other local places. Me and Ian actually visited one of the Michelin stared restaurants around the area and got some stunning food with an incredible view.
I just want to say thank you so much to The John Banner scholarship program that made this trip possible because without there donation towards me, I would never have been able to go and learn so much and do as much as I did. It has opened my eyes to the world and I want to keep learning and studying world cuisine. It has already opened many job opportunities up to me and I can’t be more grateful.