Love our college

A taste of things to come from Macclesfield College Macclesfield College is all set to serve one of the region’s fastest-growing industry sectors, with a specialist training academy that’s dedicated to developing cutting-edge, professional skills to aspiring young chefs across the county.

Officially launched on Thursday 18th October at the College’s state-of-the art campus, the Whites Chef Academy is a pioneering concept for East Cheshire that will revolutionise culinary skills training to 16 to 18 year-olds, whilst renewing their appetite for learning in a real-time, professional kitchen and training environment.

Students enrolled at the new Whites Chef Academy will study a full-time, Level 2 course in Professional Cookery. On completion of their course, they will then progress to a guaranteed apprenticeship with some of the region’s top companies, including restaurants, hotels and catering organisations.

Whites Chef Academy was launched by College Principal and Chief Executive Rachel Kay and celebrity chef and Principal Patron Aiden Byrne, at a special invitation-only event attended by key stakeholders and guests from across the region’s burgeoning and diverse business community. These included Sue Bowden from the North East Cheshire Chamber of Commerce, Richard Caulfield from the Association of Colleges, Graeme Bristow from the Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, Julian Cobley from the Skills & Growth Company and Richard Morrell from the De Vere Cranage Estate Hall Hotel.

In addition to his new role with the Whites Chef Academy, Michelin Star winner Aiden is the Executive Head Chef of 20 Stories – the gleaming jewel in Manchester’s gastronomic crown – as well as being the proprietor of the ‘AA Restaurant of the Year’ winning Church Green gastro-pub in Lymm, north Cheshire.

On leaving school at 16, Liverpool-born Aiden knew that he wanted to cook for a living and, spurred on by his youthful ambition and passion, duly enrolled on a two-year catering course at his local college. He firmly believes that what set him on the path to becoming one of the nation’s most successful and celebrated chefs, however, was the ‘apprenticeship’ he served at the Stanneylands Hotel in Wilmslow, under the aegis of Iain Donald, then Executive Chef of the Hotel, and now the Commercial Director of the illustrious Manchester-based Individual Restaurant Company.

“In comparison to the other guys I was in College with, I was probably ten steps ahead due to my additional training at the Stanneylands,” elaborates Aiden. “I was actually in the industry learning, quite literally, on the job from highly experienced and meticulous catering professionals every day. The preparation that gave me going forward when I actually got my first job was unbelievable.”

Aiden’s role at the Whites Chef Academy – which will be training its first cohort of learners from September 2019 – will see him regularly visiting Macclesfield College to mentor its aspiring young chefs who, in addition to their Level 2 studies, will also be working in selected partner establishments throughout Cheshire and Greater Manchester.

The idea for this landmark academy came about following a meeting Aiden had earlier this year, with the College’s dynamic and driven Principal and Chief Executive, Rachel Kay. “When Rachel was discussing the idea with me, my ears pricked up immediately,” confirms Aiden. “What we’re trying to do here, is to instil a real sense of everyday working ethic into the students, and make them realise that their time at college is preparation for real life.

“By attending the new Academy,” continues Aiden, “they’ll not only be learning vital new catering and cookery skills, but they’ll also be learning invaluable life skills. I’m relishing the opportunity to engage with the kids, because I think if you’re charged with the responsibility of inspiring the next generation, then you have a duty to do that to the very best of your ability. This is the true nature and value of an apprenticeship, and it is exactly what we’re trying to bring back through the new Whites Chef Academy.”

To help Macclesfield College realise its ambitious and hugely important vision for a state-of-the-art catering academy right here in East Cheshire, it was granted £25,000 of local growth funding by the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). Board member and Chair of the LEP’s influential Employers, Skills and Education Board, Clare Hayward is fully behind this key new training facility for the region: “This is a great initiative to support,” says Clare. “It was really important to us that the College’s vision for this academy was properly realised.

“I am sure the Whites Chefs Academy will have a significant impact not only on the College itself, but also on the community and wider region it serves. In the first year,” Clare continues, “the aim is for 40 apprentices to qualify from the course. From there, they will progress into great careers with some of the region’s best restaurants and hotels. This important sector in Cheshire and Warrington is growing and skilled staff are in short supply. This project will support the sector by providing locally trained staff, helping to ameliorate the recruitment issues our restaurants and leisure facilities are currently facing.”

Speaking at the event which coincided with ‘Love Our Colleges’ week – a unique initiative dedicated to highlighting and celebrating all the fantastic work that takes place in colleges across the UK – Principal and Chief Executive, Rachel Kay underlined her commitment, both to the new Whites Chef Academy and the region it serves:

“Everybody knows how difficult the FE sector has become over the past few years, with continued cuts and budget constraints making it more challenging than ever before for us all to maintain and improve standards, and transform our training provision. That’s why new initiatives like the Whites Chef Academy are so important to colleges like ours, as they not only demonstrate our absolute commitment to the next generation of talent here on our doorstep, but also show the business community that we are incredibly passionate about helping to sustain and enhance the local economy, via strategic engagement and support.”