It’s absolutely true. Many is the time when one of my own do-it-yourself cookery courses, even if it’s just a barbecue showing the women how to grill outdoors like only men can, has turned into nothing more than a knees-up: the alcohol becoming the subject for consumption and the lid closed on the barbie until all that lies beneath are the cindered remains to be thrown away the next day. The fact that chefs are also going to the pub to improve upon their culinary prowess makes me feel quite professional, although they no doubt take it all a little more seriously than I.
Okay, so that’s not entirely accurate. But it is the Stonegate Pub Company who are putting together a twelve-week cookery school for the cream of its crop of chefs, alongside hand-picked kitchen managers, to learn the intricacies of the kitchen.
The day release cookery course, officially tagged Chef School (a lot of thought went into that, eh?), is designed to develop chefs skills beyond that of the fixed menu so often found in your local. Having worked behind many a bar in my time (and propped up a few, too, mind), the majority of food is counted in in frozen bags, stock-taken in frozen bags and prepared in a microwave. This three-month long course however, which will culminate in an official dinner and presentation by the very chefs and kitchen managers attending it for the Stonegate Pub management team, takes a look beyond the standard fare of most pub grub menus.
Lessons in food and the kitchen environment will take the chefs to a whole new level. Aspects such as how to identify and classify fish, butchery, blending stock, soup and sauce from natural ingredients, expert knife skills to prepare these meals from scratch and never buying a loaf or packet pasta again will all be covered on the food side of the course.
But equally important in this day and age, with health and safety regulations, workers rights as they are and cash-conscious customers (and bank managers), workflow through the kitchen to improve efficiency and time and man management as well as the cost of the food the chefs prepare will also be explained.
The Stonegate Pub Company is rightfully proud of its Chef School, having had forty chefs graduate to date with a tremendous reaction from both staff and customers following the award. But that’s not entirely surprising as the cookery course incorporates the intuition of Kingsway College Westminster and Manchester’s Trafford College in conjunction with some of the biggest names in hostelry branding, Yates’ and Slug & Lettuce to name just two.
In the drive for the hospitality trade as a whole to set out its stall as a genuine opportunity for careers, not just a stop-gap job, this has got to be one of the better courses on the market. The chance to learn whilst on the job and pass that experience down the chain afterwards are both education for the employee and business acumen for the employer that you can’t shake a stick at. It really is everyone a winner.