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Case Study - River Cottage

Innovative chefs school tackling skills gaps and training the next generation of chefs with apprenticeships and accredited training.

The Challenge

River Cottage is known to millions as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s initiative, bringing to life his ethos and commitment to ethical, sustainable food production. What you might not know is that since the spring of 2013, River Cottage HQ is also home to a chefs school that trains up the next generation with the skills they need to be successful.

Our Approach

As part of the River Cottage commitment to holistic training and a desire to show the chefs of the future the many different aspects of the catering industry, River Cottage have enhanced a number of their training programmes with a City & Guilds accreditation.

It was a simple decision for the team, choosing City & Guilds for its well-known and trusted reputation in the industry. The River Cottage accredited training programmes are delivered on site and are fully aligned to the organisations strong values around ethical and sustainable food production.

As well as the accreditation of training programmes, River Cottage also employs a number of full-time level 2 and 3 apprenticeships in Hospitality and Catering as well as offering practical training for a number of other apprentices from local restaurants and hotels.

The apprentices learn on the job and are, by their own admission ‘thrown into the daily work’ in the kitchen. The Head Chef Gelf Anderson, who started his career with a City & Guilds qualification, has been keen to give apprentices full exposure to what is involved in the job and ensure that they are fully preparing the next generation of chefs. As fans of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would expect, ‘They learn about butchery – how to use every part of the animal – bakery, smoking and growing. We don’t hide them from anything here.’

The Results

The first group of apprentices have already graduated, with the likes of Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Moro and Ascot benefiting from River Cottage alumni. With a further 70 apprentices progressing well, River Cottage has also launched its Rising Star initiative. The winner for 2013, Sam Lomas says ‘I hope I can get more people interested in apprenticeships as they are more streamlined to what you’re interested in. A lot of what people study at university won’t be relevant but my future employers will see the advantages of my experience in the workplace.’

And it’s not just the apprentices who have benefited. Head of Education, Chris Griffin explains:
"The business has benefited a great deal from our apprenticeships. By offering education, we’re increasing stability in the industry, but the overall culture of learning and development also improves staff satisfaction. They send a positive ripple out to the rest of the team. This in turn improves our guests’ experiences."

Looking ahead, River Cottage plans to expand even further.
"Ultimately, I hope that the apprenticeships qualified through us and City & Guilds don’t just help meet skills gaps in the industry, but are better informed so they can make the right decisions and carry our philosophy forward. If we can make that change, it’ll benefit not just local communities, but the food industry as a whole."