Former chef proves he is a cut above
Former sous chef James Smith, 21, has proved he is a cut above as he trains to become a butcher.While many youngsters are drawn to the catering industry by the glamour and allure of celebrity chefs, James decided that learning the craft skills of a butcher while still working in a kitchen would give him better career opportunities.
Former sous chef James Smith, 21, has proved he is a cut above as he trains to become a butcher.
While many youngsters are drawn to the catering industry by the glamour and allure of celebrity chefs, James decided that learning the craft skills of a butcher while still working in a kitchen would give him better career opportunities.
James, from Dereham, works as a trainee chef at the on-site restaurant of food and drink training specialist Poultec, the Cafe Verde. He started working for the Dereham-based company at ust 16, initially washing dishes.
Impressed by the range of courses offered by Poultec, which is champion of the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing's meat and poultry network, James signed up for classes, taking advantage of the modular approach to learning to fit training around work. He is working towards Level 3 National Vocational Qualifications in both professional cookery and butchery.
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'I have always had a passion for food,' he said. 'After I left college, I jumped at the chance of coming in to work in the kitchens. From there I got to see Poultec's in-house butchery training facilities and my interest in that side of it started to grow. Eventually the opportunity arose to do qualifications in both butchery and cookery while working here.
'The courses do overlap and there are quite a few sections, especially involving game and poultry, that are common to both,' said James. Recently he prepared venison from field to plate, butchering a locally-sourced animal before turning it into a dish to serve in the restaurant. His venison with redcurrants sold out in a day.
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James said his mentor, meat department trainer Terry Beales, has helped him realise his ambitions.
Terry, who owned his own butcher's business until last November, says James' passion and willingness to learn has amazed the staff at Poultec.
'The boy has a natural flair for it,' he said. 'He is a quick learner and will make an excellent member of the meat trade.'
Justine Fosh, executive director of the National Skills Academy for Food and Drink Manufacturing, said the variety of training opportunities available to James demonstrated why Poultec enjoys such a strong reputation in the food industry.
'Poultec is one of our founding members in the National Skills Academy and embodies everything we stand for in terms of delivering world-class training to the food and drink industry,' she said.