Leicester College Blog

A pathway to a career in catering

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Jack Jarman started at Leicester College in 2011, going on to pass NVQ Level 1 in professional cookery, Level 2 diploma in culinary skills and Level 3 diploma in culinary skills.

Jack says: “All I ever wanted to be was a chef and work in cooking. When I enrolled at Leicester College, I already had a job in the kitchen of a local pub. We all wanted to be chefs, it was a great class and really built my confidence, particularly when I won the College Chef of the Year Award.

“After winning the award, I was lucky enough to be offered a job by one of the judges who owned a 2 Rosette restaurant. At 17 years-old, after finishing at college, I moved into accommodation above the restaurant where I worked. I spent around seven or eight years there as a chef, working up to 70-80 hours per week. Although the hours were long, the job was incredibly rewarding. It taught me respect, the discipline behind a well-run kitchen, the value of hard work, dedication and timing.”

Taking the fast track to career progression

“My next move was to apply for a job with Wilson Vale, a national contract catering company, who ran the catering operation at a prestigious conference centre in central Leicester,” continues Jack. “It offered a good wage, good hours and the ability to cook with fresh food.

“I joined as a Sous Chef but was fiercely ambitious and pushed for a promotion from day one. This resulted in being promoted to Head Chef just two weeks later. I would cook for 200-300 people at a time delivering high quality food – it was fun and exciting!

“My area manager was a breath of fresh air and when he interviewed me and asked, ‘where do you want to be in five years time?’, I just replied ‘in your job!’

“After a spell as head chef, I was promoted again to Chef Manager where I also looked after finance, budgets but could still cook – I was hooked. I really learnt about hospitality; how to run and manage a kitchen.”

Moving within the company

Jack adds: “Our contract ended with this conference centre during Covid, I stayed with Wilson Vale and moved to another client, a larger conference centre in Birmingham, as an Executive Chef. A much bigger operation, my team was made up of 14 people and I worked there for around two and a half years.

“Having only worked in conference centres, I then secured a position working for a Business and Industry client which broadened my knowledge before being promoted to Area Manager. I now manage eight sites from Sheffield down to London, with nearly 100 members of staff across a mix of client sectors”.

 A lesson to my younger self

“Although food still drives the job and my core focus is getting involved with cooking, around 50% of my role is planning, budgeting and finances. I was fortunate that Wilson Vale provides in-house training, otherwise I would have definitely returned to college to study English and Maths.

“Ironically, although I didn’t enjoy English, Maths or any Front of House lessons during the courses at Leicester College, my job now has a large focus on these elements as well as developing client relationships. If I had one message to give to my younger self, it would be to make sure to get those qualifications at the time as you will need them later on.”

Retaining connections with the College

Jack concludes: “My advice for current students is to take as much information and knowledge from the Leicester College lecturers as you can. My time at the College was a real pathway to work and gave me a home. I still have connections with lecturers and staff, and can lean on people there for advice.”

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