RYAN McDonnell is cooking up a bright future with help from chef and restaurateur Terry Laybourne.
Ryan, from Peterlee, is one of six apprentices Terry has taken on to train across his award-winning restaurants.
Ryan, who is training at Cafe 21 in Newcastle, is delighted at the chance to learn his trade from one of the North East’s best-known culinary names.
During his apprenticeship, he will be trained in all aspects of food preparation and hospitality at the restaurant on Newcastle Quayside.
Ryan studies one day a week at Gateshead College as part of his apprenticeship, at the end of which he will qualify with NVQ Level 2 Professional Cookery.
He is working full-time under the watchful eyes of Terry and his team of professionals.
“Working for someone like Terry is incredible, it’s amazing,” he said.
“The team at Café 21 come from all over the world, they have so much experience. I am learning so much from everyone.
“During my apprenticeship, I am moving around Terry’s restaurants, so I can gain experience from the different environments and different menus within each restaurant.
“At the minute, I am working alongside pastry chef Claire Armstrong at Café 21.
“She is amazing at what she does. I am picking up tips and insight from each person that I work with. It’s a great learning experience for me.
“At Gateshead College, I study all aspects of cookery, so it prepares me for when I move to another part of the kitchen.”
Restaurants in the 21 Hospitality group include Café 21 at Fenwick, Caffe Vivo, Bistro 21, Café 21 and the soon-to-open food-led pub, The Broad Chare, in Newcastle.
Terry said investing in apprenticeships was vital for the future of the business.
“Taking on young apprentices is extremely important for the group – as essentially, we are investing in both the present and our future,” he said.
“The level of professionalism that we demand from our staff is something that we can instil in young apprentices from the beginning of their careers.
“We can train apprentices to work in a manner that we would expect from our head chefs.
“Importantly for young people, we can develop clear career paths for our people to progress in the industry.”
A good example of such progression is Chris Eagle, who joined 21 Hospitality Group as an apprentice chef in 2002, and who is being promoted to head chef at new pub, The Broad Chare on the Quayside.
He believes his promotion is proof of the company’s commitment to training and creating careers for talented, enthusiastic people.
“This is a big promotion and great opportunity for me,” said Chris.
“Terry always invests in his staff.
“He has regularly encouraged me to learn from others and even paid for me to spend part of a summer at a Michelin star restaurant in France.”
Terry, who opened 21 Queen Street in 1988, brought the first Michelin star to the region.