Newbattle High School promotes chefs of the future with Apex Hotels

Apex Hotels' Head Chef for Education, John Newton on a visit to Newbattle Community High School to teach pupils cookery skills. � Sandy young Photography
Apex Hotels' Head Chef for Education, John Newton on a visit to Newbattle Community High School to teach pupils cookery skills. � Sandy young Photography

Newbattle High School cooked up a storm in the kitchen as they welcomed Apex Hotels’ Executive Head Chef for Education & Training into the classroom.

John Newton, Apex Hotels’ Executive Head Chef for Education & Training, visited the school as part of a wider reaching pre-apprenticeship programme from Edinburgh-headquartered Apex Hotels, which looks to unearth talented chefs of the future and provide them with a first taste of cooking as a career.

The weekly timetabled course with S2 and S3 together puts the young people through their paces, with their most recent class seeing the pupils creating Paris–Brest, made of choux pastry and a praline flavoured cream, with many of the finished dishes capable of winning over the toughest of Bake Off judges.

The scheme, part of Apex Hotels’ campaign to promote both hospitality and the hotel group as a rewarding employer has seen chef John Newton visit schools across Edinburgh and the Lothians for the past 18 months.

John, who has been an executive head chef for nearly 30 years said: “Apex Hotels is keen to focus its efforts on changing perceptions of hospitality and catering amongst young people; and to give young learners an opportunity to try cooking first hand and to consider the possibilities that a career in the kitchen has to offer.”

“We are keen to not only find new chefs at a grassroots level and promote catering as a full-time career, but to also teach skills that have been disappearing from the chef industry – including fishmongery, butchery and knife skills – to high school students.”

With the hospitality industry across the UK struggling to fill vacancies and facing a skills shortage throughout front of house, housekeeping and catering roles, Apex Hotels has created the new education role within the company and promoted Executive Head Chef John Newton to face the problem head on.

Angela Vickers, Apex Hotels CEO, said: “As a company we are passionate about growing our own talent and not only in investing in our own people, but focusing on overcoming the current skills shortage that the hotel and hospitality industry is facing.

“Through John’s stewardship and the work of the team here at Apex, strong links have been forged with educational institutions, including Newbattle High School, to promote hospitality as a career of choice. Collaborating with high schools, colleges and universities is an integral part of Apex’s HR strategy. We hope that our pre-apprenticeship programme will go some way in alleviating the current skills gap.”

Newbattle High School has welcomed John into the school timetable this session and is already seeing the benefits the informal cooking classes bring.

Gib McMillan, Newbattle High School headteacher, said: “Partnerships with employers like Apex Hotels are integral to our curriculum and helping our young people develop new skills whilst giving them an insight on what they may choose to do when they leave school.

“Having John come into the classroom and provide a work based educational class on chef skills, which the students really benefit from, is a great way to give young people a practical introduction to a career they may not have considered before.”