A Story From the Streets to Five Star Dining
You have seen him on TV, cooked from his recipes, and possibly even made lifestyle changes based on his “food revolution,” but did you know that beyond his entrepreneurial ventures Jamie Oliver’s passion for all things food has led to the creation of several non-profits?
In addition to his work in schools, he has launched Jamie’s Ministry of Food and the Fifteen Apprentice Programme. Both focus on reconnecting people to the food they consume. While Jamie’s Ministry of Food focuses on educating members of various communities on the art of creating healthful, well-balanced meals, it’s his Fifteen Apprentice Programme that aims to tackle several challenges from homelessness to culinary excellence all in a single year.
Fifteen is a unique, formalized training program aimed at providing troubled or underrepresented, unemployed young adults with a passion for food and drive to succeed. The yearlong program works with a team of eighteen, highly motivated apprentices who undergo rigorous training in the culinary arts while being guided by a team of trained lifestyle mentors to combat struggles in their personal lives.
Unlike traditional trade schools, this one aims to be both educational and restorative. Despite their upbringing, personal struggles, and in many cases history of homelessness, joblessness, and poverty, these individuals are held to the very highest standard from which they develop a valuable career skillset and positive lifestyle habits.
What it takes to get in
Each year over 200 individuals apply for the program and only 18 are accepted. Though the program doesn’t require standardized testing, formal resumes, or previous hospitality experience, each student must complete a series of interviews and meet the minimum requirements to be considered.
Minimum acceptance requirements
• A passion for food and cooking
• A genuine desire to be a chef
• Determination to get the most out of the course
• An ability to work as part of a team
• Committed to working long hours, late nights and early mornings
• Be between 18 to 24 years old at the start of the course in September
• Be NEET (not currently in education, employment, or training)
• Not have a qualification higher than an NVQ Level 1 in Catering or Level 2 in any other subject (equivalent to GCSE)
• Be living in the Greater London area
• Be able to work in the UK for the duration of the one-year course, with guaranteed housing
• You must be able to demonstrate a good command of spoken English
What students learn while in the program
The apprentice program kicks off with a one-week program induction during which they are presented with the various program expectations and get a preview of what’s to come. After induction, they jump right into their classroom work, sourcing trips, kitchen shifts, and other various educational components of the program.
While in the program, students are trained in the following subjects
• Fish and Mains
• Food Preparation
• Meats and Grill
• Pastry and Desserts
• Starters and Salads
The year-long school program begins with heavy classroom time and as the year progresses, students begin spending the greater majority of their time in the Fifteen kitchen.
In addition to their trade-related course work, students are also expected to conduct a welfare project to give back to their community, attend team-building sessions, work through personal issues with mentors, and participate in various special events throughout the year.
Toward the end of the program, each apprentice has the opportunity to gain experience at a top-end restaurant of their choosing where they spend two weeks as a member of their chosen kitchen’s staff.
The final step in the program is “Chefs’ Week.” During this final week, the apprentices take over the Fifteen kitchen – under the watchful eye of their professional chef professors – and must operate every aspect from sourcing to presentation. This serves as a great opportunity for the team of chefs to show off their skills and test drive their leadership amongst a group of their peers.
Who benefits from the Fifteen Apprentice Programme?
The direct benefactors of the Fifteen Apprentice Program are certainly the participants and their families. Despite the talent many possess, it’s unlikely they would have the opportunity to pursue any kind of formalized training without the aid of the Jamie Oliver Foundation. The skills they learn and the lifestyle coaching they receive provide the apprentices with a foundation for a lifetime of success.
In 2011, Fifteen conducted an independent, “Social Return on Investment” study to help explain the benefits of the program to the community. The study found that the participants had improved social and financial skills, reduced risk of homelessness, reduced risk of intergenerational poverty, improved social mobility, and improved diet and long-term health. Of course, there is also the benefit of the incredible meals these individuals are producing in some of the finest restaurants in the world.
The Next Generation:
In alignment with the idea that Fifteen was created to foster, “Social ambition rather than financial gain,” all proceeds from the Fifteen restaurant are returned to the Jamie Oliver Foundation for future philanthropic endeavors. The next generation of aspiring chefs, those hungry to learn about healthful eating, and any others impacted by the Jamie Oliver Foundation are actually being provided for by the work of these ambitious apprentices.
Beyond Fifteen Apprentice Programme
After the participants have completed the program and gone on to pursue their careers, they are still a part of the Fifteen family. The professional mentors provide lifestyle and career guidance beyond the program to ensure that the graduates have the greatest access to the tools and knowledge they need to be successful.
Fifteen Apprentice Programme News
For the latest news, updates, and information on the Fifteen Apprentice Program, visit their website and explore all that the program has to offer. If you’re interested in becoming a participant or sponsoring the activities, contact Fifteen London by email at Enquiries@jamieoliver.org. Fifteen London headquarters is located at 15 Westland Place, London N1 7LP.