Developing the next generation of top chefs at the L20 Hotel School in Liverpool

PUBLISHED: 00:00 20 October 2015 | UPDATED: 21:08 21 October 2015

Some of the L20 students: Tom Preston, Chakrit Saetang, Matthew Yates, Nathan Brown, Katelyn Deakin, Kelly Hughes, Joe McIntyre, Jack Atkinson, Amanda Fox and Jack Garner

Some of the L20 students: Tom Preston, Chakrit Saetang, Matthew Yates, Nathan Brown, Katelyn Deakin, Kelly Hughes, Joe McIntyre, Jack Atkinson, Amanda Fox and Jack Garner

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Liverpool's L20 Hotel School is dedicated to educating, training and inspiring the next generation of chefs. Rebekka O'Grady reports

Students Alex Rose and Alisha Carton with chef Kenny AtkinsonStudents Alex Rose and Alisha Carton with chef Kenny Atkinson

‘We use the hotel school as a chance for the industry to come in, have a look at the students and use it almost as a cattle market for selecting the best of the next generation,’ said Rob Graham, general manager at the L20 Hotel School based at Hugh Baird Collage, Liverpool. ‘We’re confident that students studying here can go on to work in any establishment and be comfortable.’

As Rob’s words suggest this school of hospitality and catering, launched in 2013 in an ultra-modern £8 million building, is run slightly different to other parts of the college in Bootle. Not only learning in lectures, students also experience on a day-to-day basis what it is like to work in a realistic environment. Alongside a team that includes a head chef, sous chef and restaurant manager, the aspiring chefs cook for members of the public in their contemporary-styled restaurant. It was the brainchild of Mike Mountfield, the assistant principal of Hugh Baird College and director at the L20 Hotel School.

‘He decided to launch the school as there was no great involvement from restaurants in the city centre with the college,’ explained Rob. ‘He wanted to make a real working environment and employ a head chef, not a teacher. Here, students can achieve NVQ Level 1, 2 and 3 qualifications as well as sparking up contacts with great trade links and professionals in the industry.’

Liverpool hoteliers such as Malmaison and Crowne Plaza have already become involved. Within 18 months of the college opening, students have worked at high profile events such as the Liverpool City Region Annual Tourism Awards and the Three Queens Cunard celebrations. The Hilton Liverpool has also guaranteed each student will have an interview with them at the end of the course.

Will Weston with Northcote's Nigel HaworthWill Weston with Northcote's Nigel Haworth

‘It’s escalated into a passionate environment now,’ said Rob, who told us that there has been a 50 per cent increase in applications for students wanting to start in September.

‘Students want to come and study here because of the experience and high profile contacts that can be made. We’ve had the likes of Mary-Ellen McTague and Kenny Atkinson work here in the kitchen with the students. To hear Kenny preaching about what we’ve been doing here was brilliant – a personal highlight for me. Some students have even travelled up to Northcote to work with Nigel Haworth at his prestigious Obsession event.’

From learning about different cookery methods and using the correct crockery to catering for the college cafeteria and fine dining events in the restaurant, students gain knowledge in a wide variety of things while studying at L20.

‘We won’t stop beating the drum about L20. When you’re doing something right and you’re passionate about it, it just works,’ said Rob. ‘

I’m so proud of what we have achieved. Level 3 students didn’t want to leave this summer because they’ve enjoyed it so much.’



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