Ashdown Park Hotel champions careers in the kitchen

By Natalie Blachford

While the hospitality industry across the UK continues to struggle with a shortage of chefs, Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club in East Sussex is finding success in growing its own talent.

Part of the leading independent hotel group Elite Hotels, Ashdown Park offers a variety of training and development opportunities for both those just starting out in their careers and chefs who already have some experience.

The hotel has worked hard to develop a pipeline of talent that starts with work experience from the age of 14 and 15 and continues through apprenticeships and internal training and development.

One of the hotel’s current apprentice chefs, William Blake, first took part in a work experience placement in the Ashdown Park kitchens in 2018, before returning after completing his GCSEs this year to complete a commis chef apprenticeship, in partnership with Umbrella Training.

Now two and a half months into his placement, William said: “I’ve wanted to be a chef since I started secondary school, and was attracted to the apprenticeship because I’m not a lover of the classroom setting and wanted more of a hands-on role, and I also liked the idea of earning while I learned. I love designing my own deserts and having the freedom to be inventive and I’ve already learned a lot from my colleagues – my biggest inspirations are my nan and the pastry team here at Ashdown Park.”

For chefs with passion and ambition, Ashdown Park offers plenty of opportunities for career progression. Adam Paice joined the team in 2017 as commis chef and has quickly progressed through the ranks of demi chef de partie and chef de partie, before being promoted again to junior sous chef in August this year.

Adam puts his success down to his drive and passion and said: “It feels fantastic to be promoted as it’s come earlier than I originally expected. If you’re willing to put in the hard work and the hours, there is so much support at Ashdown Park to excel. Now I’m at the point where I have the freedom to create my own menus and come up with new ideas, which I love, and eventually I hope to become a head chef and run my own restaurant.”

Andrew Wilson, executive head chef at Ashdown Park, said: “Being a chef is not an easy career, but it’s one that can be incredibly rewarding if you have the passion and are willing to put in the hard work to progress. One of the issues that the chef shortage has created is a skills gap where people are promoted prematurely or offered positions they aren’t ready for – at Ashdown Park we’re working to combat that by offering structured training and development opportunities for chefs at all levels, which results in a strong and highly skilled team, and ultimately the best possible experience for guests dining in the hotel.”

For more information about Ashdown Park and the Elite Hotel Group, visit www.careersatelitehotels.co.uk/