Scotland’s Only Social Enterprise Pub Group Unveils Classic Chef Training for Young People

‘Adventurous’ new menu to turn kitchen trainees into chefs


Tue, 14 Feb 2017


Beer for Good

Scotland’s only social enterprise bar group has unveiled a chef training programme that aims to give disadvantaged young people the necessary qualifications for a career in catering. 

Beer for Good group said the programme was the next step in the creation of an academy for catering and hospitality staff, and that it was already looking to expand the programme to other venues throughout the country. 

Head chef Matthias Sandler, of Edinburgh-based Beer for Good, said: “We’re going to recruit young people who maybe haven’t done well at school, or who have struggled to find work, and give them the support and training for them to become fully trained chefs, and help turn their lives around.”

Mr Sandler, 35, revealed that he had developed an “adventurous” new tapas menu that would enable his trainees to learn a broad range of cooking styles and ingredients, while still delivering high-quality restaurant food to customers. 

Mr Sandler added: “This is beautiful food, beautifully presented. We’re being adventurous with our offering, giving the customer some exciting options but also enabling me to give a classic chef’s training in our kitchen. It won’t be easy, and nothing will be getting served that isn’t perfect.”

Mr Sandler said the menu had just gone live in the group’s flagship Harry’s Bar, which was reopened last year as a social enterprise bar and restaurant by Beer for Good owner Chris Thewlis, a social entrepreneur who has also established the social enterprise security firm GTS and co-founded the Ginerosity spirit.

Together, Mr Thewlis and Mr Sandler developed the chef training programme. Applicants, they said, would come from referral partner organisations such as Prince’s Trust, with the first applicants due to start at the end of this month.  

Of the menu, Mr Thewlis said: “Harry’s is about delivering fresh, honest, cooked food, about being consistently high quality, while at the same time supporting people and helping them build a career for themselves. The fact we’ve designed our menu around this initiative shows how committed we are.”  

He also said that Beer for Good was the first social enterprise to deliver this type of vocational chef’s course in support of disadvantaged young people in this way.  

Mr Sandler, who trained to be a chef in Germany, said his job was 30% chef, 70% social worker. He added: “Chef’s come under enormous stress, the hours, the heat, the pressure. You need to give people support, you need to be like a family.”

Mr Sandler said problems facing his profession were being exacerbated by a shortage of fully trained chefs. “I’ve worked with people who couldn’t make an omelette; others who have struggled with personal problems. A shortage of chefs is bad for everyone. It means more pressure on us, but also poorer quality for customers. It’s another reason why this course is so important. It’s coming at just the right time.” 

The course, said Mr Thewlis, would take trainees three years after which they would have a SVQ Level 5 in professional cookery, which, crucially, would be attained through vocational experience within the Beer for Good kitchens. 

Talking personally, Mr Sandler said he had personal reasons for moving to Harry’s to help run the programme. “I believe in what they’re doing. And, while I would not say I had a troubled youth, I certainly was given a second chance, so yes, for me this is personal as well as professional. It’s good to be able to give something back.” 

Mr Sandler and Mr Thewlis said they would be using their contacts in the hospitality sector to give trainees work experience in other cities and other kitchens, such as in venues in Aberdeen and St Andrews, and with fellow chefs, including one well known Michelin chef. 

“We want them to experience a banquet kitchen, a hotel kitchen, fine dining, as well as the corporate sector, which is where the bulk of the jobs are,” said Sandler, adding: “Trainee chefs need to appreciate the different types of kitchens you get so they know which direction to take in life.” 

Mr Thewlis they would be taking on full-time apprentices in the kitchen at Harry’s in Edinburgh’s west end as well as its sister venue Southside Social. The company would also be taking on trainees in the front of house as well as continuing to provide placements for the JET (Jobs, Education and Training) programme in partnership with Edinburgh City Council.  

He also said there was a definite appetite from other social enterprise organisations to see the programme expanded beyond just the Beer for Good group, and that they were in talks with potential partners. 

Mr Sandler added: “It’s not for everyone this job, it’s a tough industry, there’s plenty of adrenaline and action, but working in a kitchen you also get taught discipline and build strong ties. You’re given a place to belong. I’ve always thought it was like a family.” 

He added: “We look after each other in the kitchen. People who come to work here find support, a family, that perhaps they haven’t experienced before. Everyone starts from the same position - they also come in as equals, but it’s up to them how well they do.”  

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