Story by Nikki Giles

Our eighth group of apprentices started the course at Fifteen about a month ago. Their schedule is quite busy from the start and includes:

“¢ 4 days at Lewisham College studying their NVQ Level 2 in Professional Cooking
“¢ 1 day working in the Fifteen kitchen and
“¢ 1 day with the Fifteen Foundation developing their skills and visiting our suppliers.

Earlier this year the new apprentices continued a lovely tradition by preparing and serving their predecessors and guests at the Class of 2009 graduation. The service went smoothly with the 300 guests enjoying drinks and canapés made from ingredients donated by our suppliers – Tony Booth, Carnevale, Casa Julia, Enotria, La Credenza and Liberty Wines.

The graduation was a great motivator for the new group, which could visualise their own ceremony in 11 months time, standing on stage receiving their certificate in front of friends, family and all at Fifteen.

“I found graduation really inspiring, to see people come from nothing and achieve such a lot. I’ve never stuck at anything before but watching them I know I can and I see a bright future for myself,” says Jeff Cresswell, Class of 2010.

Jessica O’Sullivan, new apprentice and Deputy Team Leader, shares her thoughts no starting the programme:
After the interview stages I was anxiously awaiting the news whether or not I was accepted onto the programme. When I got in I was the happiest person in the world! When the induction week started I was really nervous but excited at the same time. We learnt about first aid which was really interesting because I learnt about a lot of things I never knew before. It taught me skills that I can use both in the work place and at home. I thoroughly enjoyed the life coaching and learning about nutrition and diet which I found very educational. I am looking forward to learning much more about these topics.

My first shift was my most nerve racking day but by the end I felt even more passionate about working in a restaurant. Working the shift gave me more of an insight into teamwork and how important it is. I love the mix we have between college and working because it gives us a chance to put theory into practice and consolidate our learning.

We went on an outing to Borough Market which I enjoyed very much. I had never been to a food market before and it was amazing to see all the different foods and stalls. I will be going again! Towards December I am looking forward to the Christmas markets. I can’t wait to compare other markets to a Christmas market as I have never been. I am also looking forward to the ice skating because it’s a great team building exercise and I love ice skating.

John Magee, new apprentice and Team Leader speaks to Nikki about starting the apprenticeship programme:
What were you doing before you came to Fifteen?
Basically nothing! I filled my days with computer games and trying to make money out of anything I could. I have had 3 – 4 jobs since leaving school; mechanics, sales, painting and decorating but none of them lasted, they just didn’t interest me. My friend – Steven Estevez was on the programme last year and he encouraged me to apply. I had seen firsthand how it had really changed his life, so I did.

How did you feel when you got onto the programme?
I felt over the moon; really, really happy. It was the start of my new life and my chance. I went out and bought a pasta machine and started experimenting more at home.

What’s the thing you like most about Fifteen?
First it’s the learning. I have never learnt so much in one month in my life! Secondly I like the people; I’ve made new friends and enjoy working with everyone at the restaurant. Finally, I like the attitude at Fifteen; it’s a fresh start and no-one judges you on your past.

What don’t you like?
I don’t like the amount of travelling involved; to and from Old Street and to Lewisham College. I’ve also lost a lot of my social life and see my girlfriend far less than I used to.

In the short time you’ve been with Fifteen what effect has it had on your life?
My family is very proud of me, especially my Dad with whom I now have something positive to talk about. My friends and family have seen a change in me already; I’m happier and more confident. Before I had trouble sleeping, I wasn’t in a routine and sometimes couldn’t sleep till 5am in the morning. Now it’s not a problem – I’m learning and active every day so get to sleep fine.

And your future?
My dream is to run my own restaurant. Perhaps with Steve. He has a Spanish background and we’ve talked about setting up a place that combines both British and Spanish cuisine.

What would you advise other young people to do?
Stay out of trouble! Get your priorities right, think about where you want your life to take you and make the right choices to get there.

And to finish, what’s been a highlight so far?
The Class of 2009’s graduation was my highlight. It was very motivating to see the previous group up on stage wishing us well. I thought; I can’t wait to be there next year.

About the author: Nikki Giles is the apprentice coordinator for Fifteen Foundation.
For more information on Fifteen Foundation

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