A new Chef Academy is aiming to fill gaps in the hospitality sector, with one trainee from Oxfordshire hoping the “wide range of skills” she learned will help her rise up the kitchen ranks.

The Chef Academy is a paid two week intensive course run by pub chain Oakman Inns, which has three sites across the county.

Like many sectors, hospitality has faced staff shortages due to the double impact of Brexit and Covid-19.

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The course aims to tackle these issues by training people up from scratch and guaranteeing them a full-time job at the end.

Trainee chef Janice Lau, who is originally from Hong Kong and now lives in Kidlington, decided to undertake the course because she was passionate about food.

Ms Lau said: “I started to get passion for food a few years ago and I took up some cooking classes back in Hong Kong. Now, I really want to switch my career into catering.”

Ms Lau used to work in research for public health but feels food is “actually very related” health and therefore feels it is an “important element” to consider when working with it.

She explained she joined the Academy as felt she “really lacked the skills” needed to work in a kitchen, such as knife skills and decoration.

Witney Gazette: Janice Lau in the kitchen. Picture Oakman GroupJanice Lau in the kitchen. Picture Oakman Group

The hands-on kitchen experience Ms Lau gained has seen her learn how to create a variety of Mediterranean dishes such as handmade pizza, pasta, sauces, starters and desserts.

At the end of the course Ms Lau will join the team at The Blue Boar in Witney as a Kitchen Assistant.

Her dreams are to eventually move up the ranks in the kitchen and become a head chef or even open her own catering business.

She feels the course “really helps someone who wants to go into the food industry” as it covers a everything needed.

She added the trainers are “friendly” and go into detail when teaching new skills.

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Ross Pike, chef director of the Oakman Group, said: “We were looking at what the industry was doing and everyone seems to be moaning about is happening out there and we do not want to do that. We thought: lets find people who might not ever have been chefs before, that are interested in food and lets take them on the journey.”

Mr Pike added it is for various reasons there are staff shortages in hospitality, such as workers not returning after Brexit and the risk of lockdown.

He explained: “When people look at our industry, we are one of the first to be closed down if Covid comes back. When people weight that all up they think: ‘do I really want to go and work in that industry?’”


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