14th September 2018
Promoting Opportunities during Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight
During the two special weeks, Scottish Food & Drink will celebrate the unparalleled global reputation Scottish produce has and use the platform to encourage more young people to choose a career in the industry. The plan is to double the industry’s value by 2030 and to fill 27,000 jobs by 2022 to bolster the industry’s success.
CH&CO is no stranger to engaging young people through its partnerships with Springboard, Foxes Academy and The Princes’ Trust. Closer to home, the caterer has more than 230 people aged between 16 and 30 enrolled on one of its three training and development academies. People like Ross McLaren and Courtney MacLeod.
Ross McLaren, 23yrs old – Chef de Partie CH&CO Workplaces
Ross started out in the industry at just 14, when he was still at school, working for free in Tom Kitchin’s Michelin-starred flagship restaurant in Edinburgh. It was here that he was inspired to pursue a career in hospitality.
Shortly after leaving school, Ross enrolled in the highly-regarded Hilton apprentice scheme where he learned many skills, both in the classroom and in the kitchen. He went on to spend over seven years with the company.
In 2018, Ross joined CH&CO Workplaces as part of the team opening a new contract in Edinburgh. Responsible for the meat and fish section, Ross has gone from strength to strength. By taking every opportunity to learn and expand his skills and knowledge, Ross is hoping to make the step up to sous chef, which, according to his executive chef, “is a very realistic possibility given his competence in his current role”.
“I love working in Scotland,” explains Ross. “With its constantly-evolving food scene there is always something new on the market or new to learn. My passion is local Scottish produce. Seeing the produce change with the seasons drives me, and I really enjoy developing my knowledge and using seasonal ingredients. I have also found that the close-knit family of chefs that I have encountered are always ready to offer support and advice to people like me on how to progress within the industry!
Courtney MacLeod, 24 yrs. old – Kitchen Assistant (chef) CH&CO Workplaces
Courtney left school early and started work in a local café in Glasgow. In the café, Courtney’s only cooking experience was organising breakfasts and preparing soups for lunch. With most of the lunch dishes being bought in and heated, there wasn’t much scope for learning. It wasn’t long before Courtney’s interest waned, and she left.
Courtney enrolled on a local scheme called ‘working-links’, and it was here that she applied for a kitchen assistant role with CH&CO Workplaces. Straight away her manager could see her potential:
“When Courtney came for the interview she was very shy and lacked any real knowledge of the industry, but there was something about her. It was my belief that someone so fresh could be moulded into a successful team member with the right support. At the time I was warned against this, but I put my faith in Courtney and slowly began to work with her on her journey”.
To start with, Courtney’s role as kitchen assistant was to support the team with cleaning duties. But, as with all the team, her manager offered her opportunities to develop skills across the kitchen. It wasn’t long before Courtney was moved onto deli prep and cold sweets. It was here that her manager realised that recruiting her was the right move as she always responded really well to training. Courtney quickly moved on to creating soups and working on the stoves. Her manager was always close at hand, but Courtney soon showed she could handle things on her own and is now often one step ahead!
With an eagerness to learn, Courtney has embraced training and development opportunities from food safety to knowing all about allergens. For the last 18 months, she has been enrolled on CH&CO’s Chefs Academy. Through a mixture of on-the-job training, classroom activities and working in other kitchens, Courtney has gained knife skills, taken part in masterclasses and attended chefs visits to suppliers and markets.
Courtney’s experience of travelling to the Academy training sessions in London has increased her confidence tenfold. In a few months, she will complete the Academy and her next stage of development will be around menu planning and costings. Describing her role, Courtney said: “My job is very intense, so I must always be 100% committed to hard work, learning and staying motivated. And, I am! Since starting with CH&CO, my manager has really helped me progress and although I was nervous at first, I am so grateful that he nominated me for the academy as it has really helped me with my progression. I’ve always liked food and apart from my manager, Heston Blumenthal and Amaury Guichon are my favourite chefs. I’d really like to follow in their footsteps and have my own restaurant one day.”