Could you be Norfolk’s next top chef?

Alex Clare, winner of Best Chef in the Norfolk Food and Drink Awards 2017. Picture: Contributed

Alex Clare, winner of Best Chef in the Norfolk Food and Drink Awards 2017. Picture: Contributed - Credit: Archant

Restaurant group is looking for new talent as part of its apprenticeship and academy programmes.

Norfolk has a lack of chefs. Ask any restaurateur, landlord or café owner and you'll hear dozens, if not hundreds of recruitment horror stories.

There simply aren't enough feet on the ground in the industry. But this isn't an issue limited to the eastern counties, it's a dilemma faced by hospitality as a whole. One that has been fuelled, says Greg Adjemian of G&D Ventures, by the lack of apprenticeship programmes in the 90s and early 2000's.

'It meant there's been a couple of generations of people not inspired to get involved in the industry,' he explains. 'And that's especially in Norfolk. London is an anomaly because it's able to attract the best talent from around the world – they have more people on their doorstep. In Norfolk we're having to not only develop our people from within, but to attract people into our businesses from afar.'

G&D Ventures (The Ingham Swan, The Wildebeest, Warwick St Social) is seeking to address what Greg and business partner Dan Smith call a major 'talent gap' by launching a chef academy this year, as well as ensuring an attractive apprenticeship scheme is in place with City College Norwich.

The group is investing not only in college students, who will be identified for apprenticeships by Greg and Dan, but also via the new academy, which will enable people who love cooking, but haven't as yet followed a professionally trained path, get into the kitchen and learn all the skills and tools to become some of the best in the business.

A prime example of the success the group has already achieved through its dedication to training and supporting its people is the rising star of Alex Clare – who won Best Chef in the Norfolk Food and Drink Awards 2017.

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Alex joined G&D Ventures aged 16, and was, incredibly, head chef of The Ingham Swan by the tender age of 19.

'Part of our business is to be a leading restaurant operator in Norfolk,' says Greg, explaining why training is so important to him and Dan. 'It's one of our core objectives to become an employer of choice. We're very focussed on recruiting, training and retaining our people.

'I believe there's a lot of room for restaurants to grow in Norwich and Norfolk. We are currently under-represented in terms of accolades and awards in the industry. We are very chain-led here, so we're trying to raise the profile of independent restaurants like ours, promoting local farms, producers and people too.

'We will soon launch the G&D Ventures website showing details of our apprenticeship and chef academy programme and we want to inspired chefs and cooks to enter the market and take on a new challenge.'

Greg says he and Dan are looking for applicants who have a positive attitude, maturity, ambition, loyalty and commitment.

Those people that meet the criteria can expect to embark on a programme that aims to develop them from commis to head chef in 24 to 36 months depending on their enthusiasm and talent.

Forget what you've seen on Masterchef – it's not all about foams, gels and spheres.

'We believe in developing the foundation skills a chef requires, which is around taste, preparing, seasoning and methodology.

'It's not style over substance.'

To find out more about apprenticeships or the chef academy contact Greg or Dan via The Wildebeest.