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Potential of trainee chefs bodes well for local hospitality sector’s recovery

May 20th, 2022 11:00 PM

By Emma Connolly

Sally Barnes of the Wookcock Smokery in Castletownshend holding a demonstration for members of the West Cork Chef Academy including Yeohan Cunningham, Neil Grant of the host hotel, the Celtic Ross, Anne Siwek, Anna Mironova, Joseph Lankester, Richard Vanyai, Joao Matosnarciso and Karen Healy. (Photo: Anne Minihane)

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Early indications are that the new recruits on the recently-launched West Cork Chef Academy are showing enormous potential and will be a huge benefit to local industry

West Cork Chef Academy trainees are showing enormous potential and will support the industry locally, with a robust level of talented chefs.

That’s according to those involved in the unique collaboration between local hotels and the Cork Education & Training Board (CETB) set up to address the serious challenges in recruiting staff to the hospitality sector, and to further promote the area as a food destination.

Trainees attend the Westside Hospitality FET Centre on the Model Farm Road for one day a week and spend the other four days in their assigned hotel, over a 25-week period.

Hotels taking part are Eccles in Glengarriff, the Celtic Ross in Rosscarbery, Liss Ard Estate in Skibbereen, the Blue Haven Kinsale, Fernhill House Hotel in Clonakilty and the Waterfront in Baltimore.

The group, now in week seven of the programme, was hosted by the renowned Sally Barnes of Woodcock Smokery near Castletownshend, last week.

John Byron, programme manager, said the trainees have settled in well and are making great progress.

‘You can see huge improvements in them each week which is due to the support and training they are getting from their employers and mentors.

‘As it develops, this will help promote West Cork as a food destination and help supply and provide training for a stream of new local talent to the Hotels in West Cork,’ he said

Yeohan Cunningham, culinary instructor, said the trainees are demonstrating outstanding potential.

‘They are making massive strides on their learning journey with fantastic support from their workplace mentors,’ she said.

‘Between the training at Westside Hospitality Centre, workplace mentoring and the line-up of incredible experience and visits to artisan producers with a wealth of knowledge like Sally Barnes, Woodcock Smokery the trainees are gaining the essential skills that will support the industry in West Cork with a robust level of talented chefs.’

Celtic Ross Hotel manager Neil Grant said their involvement has been very positive. ‘The chefs are being taught vital culinary skills in a controlled environment at the CETB, away from the day-to-day kitchen operation. This takes immense pressure off the senior chefs in their property, then their mentors can test them in an operational environment, when they sign off their work. Add to this the fact they will meet amazing producers and growers in the away days, and you can see they are getting a rounded experience with provenance and seasonality ingrained from the beginning.’

He said the visit to Sally’s Woodcock Smokery was ‘a world class culinary experience.’

‘It gives the perfect grounding to any aspiring chef,’ he added. ‘ They learned about seasonality, foraging, the smoking and preserving process, sustainability and tasted some of the most amazing food. What better education?’

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