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Craig studied the Level 3 Diploma in Professional Cookery at Petroc's Mid Devon Campus back in 2011 and is now Junior Sous Chef at The Jack in the Green
“I studied professional cookery at Petroc, and left in 2011. However, I have always kept in contact with my former lecturer, and have recently returned to the college to give a fish demonstration to current students.
During my time at college, I was fortunate enough to secure work experience at two of the region’s top restaurants; Rick Stein in Padstow and Michael Caines’ ABode. Both gave me so much confidence and at my final work experience placement, at The Jack in the Green in Exeter, I was offered a job.
I got in to cookery, originally, because my nan was in catering and my dad was a hotel manager, so it’s an industry I’ve grown up hearing about and experiencing first-hand. There are pictures of me, at the age of four, next to a stove ‘cooking’! When I was still at school I actually did one day of cookery a week at Petroc’s North Devon Campus (or North Devon College, as it was called then) on one of the 14-16 programmes, so I already knew I wanted to study it at a higher level when I came to college.
It’s a fantastic, varied industry to work in. However, it’s not a sociable job because of the hours, so anyone going into this profession needs to be prepared to work hard and make certain sacrifices. Having said that, it can also be so rewarding. Nothing beats seeing the smile on a customer’s face when they’ve really enjoyed something which you have cooked for them.
My advice to anyone currently choosing what to study at college would be to pick something you’re passionate about, because then it’ll never really feel like you’re studying or working. Commitment is the key to being successful in this industry. It sounds clichéd, but hard work does pay off.
In the four and a half years that I’ve been at The Jack in the Green I’ve worked my way up and gained more responsibility. In my current role as junior sous chef I now run the kitchen on some evenings when those who are above me are away. The long term goal would be to become a head chef in a well-respected, successful restaurant and perhaps even have my own establishment one day.”
Peter embarked on an apprenticeship and turned his life around.
NVQ Professional Cookery Level 2 (Apprenticeship)
Employer: Manor House Café
“Finding an apprenticeship was a turning point for me.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was a difficult teenager. I fell into the wrong crowd and got wrapped up in a world of drugs, mainly cannabis, and got kicked out of school and fired from numerous jobs.
About a year ago I thought ‘enough is enough’ and was determined to sort my life out. I’d heard that apprenticeships were a good way to get into an industry, so started asking around in cafés and restaurants in my home town of Ilfracombe.
When I was at NDPLS [North Devon Personalised Learning Service] I did some professional cookery, and found it really interesting. In fact, my teachers there tried to encourage me to do cookery at college, but my head wasn’t in the right space at that time and I refused.
Anyway, after asking three times (!), I eventually got a job at Manor House Café.
At the very beginning, they made it clear that they had a strict no drugs policy. I knew there and then that I had to kick the habit if I wanted to succeed. If it wasn’t for my employer I don’t think I would have quit and who knows where I’d be now.
It’s been tough at times, I’m not going to lie. Friends sometimes mock me because I earn a lot less than them. But, I just think, at least I’m not in a dead-end job. I’m working my way up. And, I’m getting so much more from my employer than just a wage; they’re investing time in me and teaching me the skills I need to climb in this industry. You have to start somewhere!
My employer shows a real interest in what I’m doing on my course and after my ‘college day’ we spend time at work going over the new dishes I’ve learnt and he helps me with anything I’m unsure of. This works the other way too, and my lecturer at college is always there to offer advice with things I’m struggling with at work.
I definitely made the right choice in terms of entering the catering industry, as there are so many different job options. Everyone needs to eat so there’s always a need for a chef, wherever you are in the world.
I’d like to use my profession to travel in the future and am currently looking into how to become a chef in the Armed Forces.”
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