Ashburton Chefs Academy
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Ashburton Chefs Academy

Meet Our Graduates

Speak to a typical class of our trainee chefs and you will find a diverse range of backgrounds, experience and motivations for training in professional catering. Common to all, however is a passion for cooking, food and an ambition to master the art to the highest level. Here we look at some of the personal journey's off past Chefs Academy graduates.

Fritha's Journey

Graduated from Professional Culinary Diploma June, 2012.

It is amazing where a Chefs Academy qualification can take you. Meet Fritha Lambert, private chef to a fashion industry leader.

Fritha Lambert is packing her bags once again. She’s used to jetting off across Europe at a moment’s notice, arriving at a city apartment where she’ll stay for a few weeks at a time, cooking beautiful dishes which are then transported across town to wherever her boss happens to be working. 'I’d never have thought I’d end up doing something like this!' she says.

She can’t reveal the identity of her employer, suffice to say she’s high up in the fashion industry, but getting this job was a dream come true - and a dream that began at Ashburton.

Fritha joined the Professional Culinary Diploma course in 2012 after deciding to follow her lifelong love of cookery instead of taking up a place at university. ‘I loved the course and especially the mixed age range and different backgrounds they came from - we had an accountant, an IT consultant, and an ex-police officer’ she says. ‘I also have so much respect for our tutors; they are amazing at what they do. At the end of the course we had a lot of free rein, but we started by learning what they do and how they do it. And I still remember the stress when we first had to get a plate out in 10 minutes from scratch!

‘I also have so much respect for our tutors; they are amazing at what they do. At the end of the course we had a lot of free rein, but we started by learning what they do and how they do it. And I still remember the stress when we first had to get a plate out in 10 minutes from scratch!

‘We also learned practical advice about being in a big kitchen - like making sure you get all your equipment out the night before and hide it somewhere in your area so you can get going first thing. It really made the difference when I started work, especially coming in at 7.30am when everyone would be crammed around the equipment cupboards.’

After graduating from Ashburton, Fritha went straight into the heart of the London restaurant scene as a pastry chef at the famous west-end restaurant, The Ivy. It was tough, she says, with long hours and every chef competing for their place in the kitchen. ‘It might seem glam, but it’s hot, and tiring work and burns become second nature.’

When she moved on to Gordon Ramsay's Maze Restaurant in London as a pastry chef, she found her arrival coincided with the London Olympics. ‘I ended up working from 7.45am to 2am in the morning, then back the next day to do it all again.’

Despite the hardships, Fritha’s passion for cooking continued and eventually she made the decision to set up her own catering business. All was great, but it was about to get even better, after Ashburton contacted her about an intriguing private chef position.

‘Someone had approached the school about a private chef position and they sent the details on to me.’ Fritha had to jump through several hoops including cooking for the potential employer’s personal assistant, then making specific dishes for sampling. ‘And all this time I had no idea who the boss was!’ she smiles. ‘When I found out I’d got the job I put the phone down and danced around the house screaming with excitement. And of course I called my mum.’

Looking back Fritha says she has many happy memories of Ashburton. ‘I loved going to Brixham fish market at five in the morning, wearing suits like something from CSI, then going for a big fry up breakfast with the fishermen’, she says.

‘And the very last weekend we were there, we got a cottage by the sea and had all the chefs over and cooked for them.’ She adds, ‘I like being able to give pleasure from my cooking. It’s about giving people the opportunity to slow down and to take time to savour what they’re eating. And of course it’s always nice to get some recognition as well.’

Craig's Journey

Graduated from Professional Culinary Diploma Dec, 2013.

I started off studying Hotel Management for 4 years after school but actually ended up as a mechanical engineer for 8 years working as a engineer onboard sailing super yachts (40 - 56 meter range) clocking up over 100,000 sea miles.

I didn’t have many regrets in life, but the one that continued to bother me was missing out on a chef's apprenticeship at the 5* Royal Hotel in Durban when I was 21. I kept thinking back to my time in hotels, and seeing the look on people's faces as they were eating and enjoying their meals that sold it to me...I knew I wanted to work at something that could give such simple pleasure to people. So I thought, why carry on living with the regret, why not follow my heart and give it a go now. Even at 41 years old, I am not even half way through my working life yet – it’s never too late!

I don’t think you can get better tutors that those at Ashburton, they were all amazing - experts, both in cooking and in tutoring. The teaching was always incredibly enthusiastic and made every day so enjoyable. The location of the school couldn’t be better either.

The Charity Dinner was a definite highlight, as was the opportunity to learn from such talented chefs. They inspired, motivated and taught me more than I could have hoped for.

Meeting the suppliers, such as Sladesdown Farm and seeing where the products we were using came from has taught me to treat my ingredients with a lot more respect and the guest chefs, Angus from the Holt and Tim from Ode were truly inspiring in their passion for what they are doing.

This is what works so well about the course – it does so much more than just teach the practical skills, it teaches you how to truly understand and appreciate good produce and really inspires and nurtures your passion, enhancing your ambition and commitment to becoming a top-class chef.

I remember on our graduation night Darrin saying something about how our heads were filled to the max with information, and it definitely felt like that, we learnt such a huge amount it was almost overwhelming at times – but it’s great to feel so truly equipped with knowledge and skills, even if it may take a little while for all that information to sink in fully.

After graduating, I started working as a chef at the Riverford Field Kitchen and I have since moved to the Riverford Farm shop in Yealmpton as they don't have a chef down there and needed someone to take control!

As for future plans, who knows? Just get as much experience as I can, then maybe find a little place to cook my style of food.

I’d say if anyone is thinking about entering a career in catering, don’t live with the regret of not having given it a try. Chef’s school is also a brilliant way to hone your skills, and gain the professional qualifications to help you progress rapidly within the industry and get jobs in kitchens that suit your personality and how you like to cook – and I can’t imagine you’ll find a much better place to study than Ashburton.

Amanda's Journey

Amanda's Journey

Graduated from Professional Culinary Diploma June, 2012.

I’m from Cape Town in South Africa and a teacher by trade, but for the last 10 years have been a stay at home mother raising 3 children.

I love to cook and always dreamt of opening my own little food business, but felt too under-qualified to succeed. But being a Mom, taking the time out to study for most professional cookery courses would have been too much of a sacrifice – the Ashburton course was the perfect length for me. The course has given me confidence in myself, as a leader and as a cook and the knowledge I can do well in the industry.

On the course, I loved the energy and vibe in the kitchen and the feeling that you were learning every minute of every day. It’s hard to pinpoint any one thing in particular that stood out, every dish created, eaten and enjoyed by the chefs was a highlight! The training received was intense and positively taught. I particularly value being taught how to work as a team and lead each other, and every aspect of cooking was covered.

After graduating we moved back to Cape Town and I have recently been employed as the head chef/manager in a small catering/ teaching school. I head up their catering kitchen which caters to the rich and famous in-house and out. I also do a little bit of teaching as well. It’s a huge achievement considering I am newly qualified, but my portfolio from Ashburton tipped the scales and they grabbed me!

For anyone considering a career in catering, I’d say don’t be afraid to follow your passion, you will never regret doing something you love for a living, and Ashburton Cookery School is a brilliant way to help foster and nurture that passion and transform it into a career...So go for it, but be prepared to work really hard – it will be worth it.

Andrew's Journey

Andrew's Journey

Graduated from Professional Culinary Diploma Dec, 2013

I fell into the catering industry by accident. I’d just returned from some time in Australia and desperately didn’t want to go back to working in an office again. Luckily, an uncle was able to get me work as a kitchen porter and within a few months I was promoted to commis chef.

Wanting to hone my cheffing skills with more formal training I began looking into cookery schools and felt Ashburton Cookery School offered much more than the others I considered. Being a relatively new course, it was completely up to date and clearly focused on the skills and knowledge needed for a chef in today’s commercial kitchen – it offered something more than just practical cooking skills. It also teaches how to think like a head chef – from sourcing the best ingredients to taking responsibility for the kitchen budget and managing a catering business effectively.

A highlight for me has to be cooking with chefs Darrin and Joe for the Dining Club. It was a brilliant opportunity to cook alongside expert chefs in a real-life scenario. The day was full of adrenaline, about as far away from how a day in the office feels. It also allowed me to gauge how much I had progressed since the course started and recognise just how far I’d come – it was an incredibly satisfying feeling. Being taught exactly what head-chefs will be looking for in a real kitchen was invaluable knowledge which will stay with me.

The 'Leadership in the Kitchen' week was also fantastic! I now have a very good understanding of what it takes to build a strong kitchen team and feel armed with the team building tools to help me identify each individual’s strengths and weaknesses and understand how to effectively manage and motivate a team.

I have every confidence that having formal qualifications will help me get work trials in establishments that in the past may not have considered my application.

If you are serious about being a chef you won’t find a better place to develop you skills. If you already have a passion for cooking and are considering whether a career in catering might be for you, then don’t think twice, follow your passion, you won’t regret it.

I don’t think many people can say they they’ve found their vocation in life, I have definitely found mine and feel very lucky.

Andrew is now working as a chef at Linthwaite House Hotel in Windermere.

Student Stories

Chefs Academy Graduates talk about their experiences.

Fast track your career

Graduating from the Professional Culinary Diploma sets you out as a committed professional, possessing excellent cooking skills and discipline that employers are crying out for.

See where graduates are working