A small group of chefs are hard at work in the Square Food kitchen, slowly stirring chopped dates into a jam-like substance on the hob.
“It’s kind of like a Jammy Dodger,” says Diccon Lewis, 18, about the cookies currently being created.
Plates of salad are already prepared on the sides but there’s still soup and samosas to be made before the end of the day.
It’s Wednesday of the second week into the intensive 12-week course, How To Be A Chef, delivered by Square Food Foundation in partnership with Bristol24/7, which is aimed at inspiring a new generation of chefs and helping people gain qualifications, as well as experience in real workplaces across the city.
“I want to learn life skills and see if I’m interested in being a chef,” says Verity Whitlock, 23, who says she has enjoyed the work so far.
Diccon is interested in a career in the hospitality industry and says the qualifications on completion of the course will be a big help towards reaching his goal.
The innovative Young Chefs project first launched in 2017 and has developed into a bi-annual 12-week course aimed at young people who aren’t at work or in other education.
Barny Haughton, the founder of Square Food Foundation, and his team are hard at work in the large kitchen inside The Park, on Daventry Road, Knowle. They are preparing for a catering event the next day, at which the young chefs will play an integral role – helping to create and serve the feast.
Speaking about the project earlier this year, Barny said: “If you ask any Bristol head chef what they want more than anything else, the answer will be a driven, passionate and willing-to-learn young chef.”
The aim of the Young Chefs programme is to inspire and train this next generation of chefs, while opening up opportunities to gain hands-on experience, training and workshops with some of Bristol’s top chefs and industry qualifications.
Watching over the group is Caroline Parsons, a cookery teacher and project coordinator. She explains the course is around 80 per cent practical, but also includes some lessons on nutrition and what constitutes a healthy diet.
The new cohort will get to visit Jekka’s Herb Farm in Almondsbury, to see how some of the produce they use is grown, and are soon set to begin work experience placements. These are tailored to fit the individual and could be in a fast-paced professional kitchen, or a smaller café setting. Businesses across Bristol have supported the initiative.
Previous graduates have gone on to cater major events and land roles in professional kitchens.
The Young Chefs programme is one of a number of projects run through Bristol24/7’s Better Bristol initiative, a collaborative approach to creating positive impact in the city.
Through projects like this, Bristol24/7 hopes to help create opportunities and improve people’s lives.
Main photo: L-R: Calum Taylor, Kaci Cole, Elliot Johnston, Verity Whitlock and Diccon Lewis
Read more: Young Chefs project – the story so far