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Major plan for West Cork Chef Academy

February 15th, 2022 11:45 AM

By Emma Connolly

Lukasz Tomaszewicz, left, the head chef at Fernhill House Hotel with Michael O’Neill Jnr, manager of Fernhill House Hotel in Clonakilty, which is one of eight hotels participating in the new West Cork Chef Academy training programme. (Photo: Martin Walsh)

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EXCLUSIVE

New initiative could mirror Rick Stein’s famous cookery school in Cornwall

A WEST Cork Chef Academy is being set up to address the serious challenges in recruiting staff to the hospitality sector.

It’s also hoped the academy will further promote West Cork as a food destination, in the same way celebrity chef Rick Stein’s cookery school has boosted tourism in Cornwall.

The academy will give 12 people, without any previous training, a chance to work with some of the country’s top chefs in eight local hotels.

It’s a collaboration between Cork Education and Training Board (ETB) and local hotels the Celtic Ross, Inchydoney Island Lodge & Spa, Dunmore House, Emmet Hotel, Fernhill House, Blue Haven Kinsale, Liss Ard Estate and the Eccles in Glengarriff.

The idea is the brainchild of John Byron, programme manager for the national chef apprenticeship programme for Cork ETB, and Karen Healy, a leading training specialist for the hospitality industry.

‘There is currently a major shortage of suitably qualified chefs to fill available positions in the hospitality sector nationally,’ said John, a former chef.

‘This is also affecting the hospitality sector in West Cork. Cork ETB, through its skills to advance initiative, is delighted to be able to assist in helping to train the next generation of culinary professionals and introduce new talent to the participating hotels.’  After an induction week in Westside Hospitality FET Centre on the Model Farm Road in April, the trainees will continue to attend there one day a week and spend the other four days in their assigned hotel, over a 25-week period.

In September, they’ll receive a City and Guilds qualification, and will also automatically qualify for a place on the national chef apprenticeship programme that month. ‘It’s the most exciting culinary programme I’ve seen in the country because of the calibre of the chefs the trainees will be working with, the qualification, and the career path,’ added John.

Karen Healy said West Cork was the ideal place for the academy. ‘The food provenance is world class, so are the producers and the chefs. This is also about promoting West Cork further as a food destination, a place where chefs go to learn their trade, and where people then go to eat, just like Rick Stein has done for Cornwall,’ she said.

Neil Grant, manager of the Celtic Ross, said: ‘In dark times recruitment-wise, with chefs particularly hard to find, this initiative has given us all a boost to attract fresh new talent.’

Michael O’Neill Jnr of Fernhill House Hotel said it was a ‘fantastic opportunity.’

‘Recruiting chefs is extremely difficult so this is very welcome, while also giving trainees a lifeskill. We’re happy to be on board.’

The initiative is proving timely as this week a survey by Fáilte Ireland revealed that one third of tourism businesses may have to close due to recruitment issues.

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