Young catering consultants –a now impossible dream?

Peter Pitham at Catering Consultancy Bureau explains his route into catering and consultancy and asks how young people can enter this world today.

Can we create a structured apprenticeship program as a solution to the lack of talent? I feel very fortunate to have enjoyed the catering career that I have had. During the early stages, British Petroleum (BP) sponsored me for a seven year catering apprenticeship whilst attending day release at Lewisham College. After gaining my City & Guilds and also the Advanced Kitchen and Larder (706/3) I worked my way through the kitchen brigade before moving into the management side of catering. BP again sponsored me through a further three years of management development, working at all their main sites throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

Following this I joined an event company as Special Events Manager and then Area/ District Manager, with a spell in business development. I was recruited by Gardner Merchant and put through a further personal development course over the next three years.  Having spent time with several very good catering organisations I decided that catering consultancy could offer me a rewarding career, by now possessing a good depth of knowledge with the ability to help and support clients with their own catering requirements and there lies the problem; having spent a significant number of years working in the catering industry I felt that I then had sufficient knowledge, so, would this determine the fact that it may be an impossible dream to have a younger breed of catering consultant – perhaps not?

A number of catering organisations have taken on young apprentices, together with design and equipment companies.

For example Gareth Sefton from design company SHW Design has created an apprenticeship scheme to attract young people into the industry. This just leaves catering consultancy apprenticeships outstanding. I am not aware of many catering organisations who take on apprentices for catering consultancy and whilst I may stand to be corrected, there are not many catering consultancy apprenticeships either and this is a shame.

I suspect that most catering consultancies are smaller organisations who would find it difficult to support an apprentice and therein lies an additional problem. I therefore ask a question of the wider catering world here; could a solution be to arrange and structure a programme for apprentices which includes spending the majority of their time with the parent catering organisation who took them on in the first place and further arrange periods of time with design companies such as Sefton Horn Winch and the good old catering consultancies, to allow a broader view into the world of catering consultants?

I am sure that a working group could look into this for the wider good of the industry and provide a stable platform for apprentices to enable them to decide upon which part of the catering industry they would like to enter. This could also be extended to the practical side of the industry with apprentice chefs spending time with kitchen and design companies to give them an insight into the various aspects of the industry and by doing so, open up choices for them all.

I was extremely lucky to have been sponsored by British Petroleum in the days when they managed their own catering arrangements and I certainly appreciated being developed in the way that I was.

This is going to take a little organising but it would at the very least give a good clear insight into the various disciplines of the catering world.