Our commis chef Esther Smith shares her experience on the commis chef apprentice scheme at BaxterStorey.
“When I was at school, they didn’t advertise apprenticeships, only how important it was to go to sixth form. I have never really been a written exam kind of person, so a career advisor at school suggested I apply for an apprenticeship, where I can learn practical skills. I started searching for apprenticeships on the usual recruitment websites, and then I came across this one at BaxterStorey.
I started my commis chef apprenticeship last August and have loved it ever since. I wasn’t always sure what I wanted to do after leaving school, but hospitality seemed exciting. My Mum was a chef at The Ritz and I’ve loved cooking since I was young; MasterChef Australia is my favourite tv programme!
When I joined, I wasn’t sure what to expect; I thought I’d just be working in a staff canteen, not that I’d be working in a fine dining kitchen cooking for the board of directors.
Hospitality chef Marco has been an amazing mentor; we have such a great relationship. I’ve learnt so many techniques that I never thought I’d be able to learn. There’s cooking techniques I’m confident in now, that a year ago I wouldn’t have even known about. I’m lucky to work in such a great team; we’re like one big family. I’m the youngest but it’s been a great opportunity for me to develop my communication skills. I’ve also become much more empathetic; I’ve got much better at understanding people’s social circumstances.
The apprenticeship has given me so many opportunities. I completed my food safety, my health and safety level 2 training, and I was lucky enough to visit Michelin starred restaurant The Woodspeen in Newbury. Wow, what a great experience that was! I worked from 9am-11pm in the larder, in the pastry kitchen, in service, it was incredible.
I’ve become more organised since I started the apprenticeship. You have to learn how to manage your time between working, coursework and preparing for exams, as no one is checking on you every day. If I have a project or an essay to finish, I’m given time during my working day to complete it. If you structure your work load through the year, it’s much easier; you have to be committed.
For anyone wanting to apply for an apprenticeship, the biggest piece of advice I would give is go for it! It’s been such a fun experience, I have learnt a huge amount and been lucky enough to have such fantastic mentors; they’ve taught me all I know. Give yourself that opportunity to succeed”.
Orla O’Donoghue, general manager said: “As one of BaxterStorey’s youngest apprentices, Esther joined us when she was just sixteen years old. Working in our hospitality kitchen, Esther prepares fine dining for the board of directors and is mentored by our hospitality chef Marco Feder. Esther’s cooking skills are amazing, and she also achieves incredibly good results in course work. We are very proud of her!”