Yes chef! New course to tackle kitchen staffing crisis
School of Food in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny is launching a professional chef training course
Chefs Rodney Doyle and Derek O’Brien in the School of Food training kitchen in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny. Photograph: Pat Moore
School of Food, the community led educational food hub in Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, is addressing the staffing crisis facing the restaurant trade with the launch of a chef training course that will get underway in October.
The Professional Cookery course is a nine-month programme combining classroom studies, kitchen skills and work experience. A fee of €1,900 will be payable for this course which is at post-Leaving Cert level, leading to a QQI (Quality and Qualifications Ireland) Level 5 award.
The full time course will involve spending three days each week in the classroom and kitchen and a further two days in a professional kitchen. On completion of the 34-week programme, the school expects that students “will be capable of working as commis chefs in restaurants or hotels”.
The Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) recently highlighted a requirement for 5,000 new professional chefs each year by 2020 to cope with demand, with only 1,800 chefs qualifying from certified culinary training programmes in Ireland each year.
“We want to be able to market Ireland as a centre of food excellence, a true culinary experience with world-class chefs leading the way. The School of Food in Thomastown is a welcome addition to culinary education in Ireland. Given the chef shortage there is huge potential for jobs in professional cookery and the School of Food Professional Cookery programme will give students an excellent introduction to culinary education, with on the job training,” said Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the RAI.
Garrett Byrne, chef proprietor of Campagne, a Michelin one-star restaurant in Kilkenny city, says he hasn’t experienced any staffing problems recently, “but that’s a bit to do with the [Michelin] star, and I know other restaurants are struggling to find kitchen staff, so the new course at the school can only be a good thing”. He will be offering work experience to students on the course.
Patrick Flanagan, a chef with 30 years experience in professional kitchens and a degree in training and education from NUIG, has been recruited as lead tutor on the course. “We will be offering students the type of skills that they need in order to be kitchen ready and hit the ground running in the real world environment of a kitchen,” he says.
The programme has received funding from Fáilte Ireland and LEADER. John Mulcahy, Head of Hospitality with Fáilte Ireland, says: “Visitors to Ireland regard a great food experience as one of the key drivers of satisfaction when they are here, so it is important that we get it right. Well trained chefs at all levels are crucial if we are to achieve this, which is why Fáilte Ireland is collaborating with the School of Food on this professional cookery programme.”
The chef course will run in tandem with the programme of short duration amateur cookery courses run at the school. “The School of Food is a unique concept in that it serves the community of Kilkenny and the South East as a hub for food education. We have some of the best tutors available and state of the art facilities,” says Mags Morrissey, project coordinator.
Students who have completed the course will take part in a graduate showcase, at which they will have an opportunity to demonstrate their skills to potential employers. There will also be an opportunity to continue in education, with a Level 6 programme currently in development.
Interested candidates will have to move quickly to secure a place: applications for the Professional Cookery course must be in by August 31st and places will be allocated on the basis of interviews undertaken in early September. To receive a detailed course description and application form, candidates must email their name and telephone number to chefsQQ15@schooloffood.ie. The course begins on Monday, October 5th.
In addition to the Professional Chef course, there will be a Level 4 Culinary Skills course offered at the school. This Back To Education Initiative will be offered to candidates who have not completed the Leaving Cert. There will be no fee payable for this course, which will run for two days a week over 18 weeks. Further details on this course are available from the Back To Education Initiative, see qualifax.ie.