Learning how to make the perfect pizza

How Pizza Express' apprenticeship is preparing learners for the busy restaurant environment

01 April 2014 / Be the first to comment

The new one-year pizza chef apprenticeship programme, also known as the Pizzaiolo Apprenticeship, will teach learners how to make the perfect pizza, tutored by the restaurant chain’s master pizzaiolos [pizza chefs]. Over the course of the year, apprentices will also work towards a Level 2 Apprenticeship in Kitchen Services, which teaches them how to work in a busy restaurant environment.

With the official launch of the training programme in September 2013, Pizza Express now has 213 learners working towards the City & Guilds qualification. ‘Many of our apprentices are existing team members who wanted to turn their knowledge into a formal qualification,’ says Amanda Underwood, Human Resources Director at Pizza Express. ‘We’ve also attracted new recruits to the organisation who want to get experience of working in a kitchen and learn the secrets of our famous dough. 

‘Trainees quickly find themselves at the heart of a busy, professional kitchen. As well as covering the basics, including ingredient preparation, the apprentices take on the vital kitchen services skills to enable them to work safely and efficiently.’ 

A further 129 team members are currently waiting to start their apprenticeships. ‘The internal buzz it is creating tells us we’re doing the right thing,’ says Underwood. ‘The apprenticeship has been created to offer real value to apprentices.’

For Pizza Express, the pizzaiolo apprenticeship is an important way to formalise the training already offered to new chefs. It also ensures that the high standards expected of the business are maintained across the board, while offering big benefits to learners. ‘We invest a huge amount in training for our pizzaiolos,’ continues Underwood. ‘They have always been at the centre of Pizza Express’s success.’

More than 10,000 pizzaiolos have worked for Pizza Express since it opened its first restaurant in Soho, London in 1965. Urbano Lopez is the company’s longest service pizzaiolo, having served 35 years in the Fulham Road restaurant. The company’s youngest ever pizzaiola is Lauren Cane, 16, from Aldershot.

City & Guilds worked with Pizza Express to devise and accredit the qualification. ‘They were the natural choice for a partnership,’ says Underwood. ‘City & Guilds qualifications are globally recognised and would hold the most weight for our team members as their careers progress.’

Matthew Hancock MP, Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise, joined Pizza Express bosses to mark the launch of the apprenticeship last autumn. ‘The pizzaiolo apprenticeship is designed to provide the essential skills for anyone hoping to become a professional chef,’ Hancock said. ‘Hands-on experience with one of the country’s leading restaurant chains will prove invaluable for people wanting to go into hospitality.’

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