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Ben’s got the winning ingredients

A “win-win situation” is how 19-year-old Ben Locking describes his chef apprenticeship, which he started in 2018 through West Nottinghamshire College.

Ben, from Tupton in Chesterfield, was at sixth form studying media, but felt uncertain what he wanted to do next. The path he took wasn’t planned but has worked out brilliantly – and revealed a hidden talent.

He said: “I was working at The White Horse on Woolley Moor pot washing and waiting-on while I was studying. I wanted something full-time and when a vacancy came up in the kitchens, I decided to take it – and that’s when the chance to study the apprenticeship as a commis chef came about.”

Ben began to really enjoy life in the kitchens and his sous chef had recommended West Notts College to him and suggested enrolling on a chef apprenticeship.

He said: “This was my first taste of catering. I’d always loved good food and liked experimenting. I enjoyed cookery lessons at school but never took it further. When I began in the kitchens, I found I’d got skills I’d probably have never discovered if I hadn’t taken the job.”

Ben is responsible for the starters and desserts at the busy restaurant and also enjoys time at the college on set study days where he can practise preparing and cooking a range of dishes.

He added: “Every two weeks I come into the college kitchens and we pick out certain topics from the work books to cook, whether it’s fish, vegetables, pasta or rice and we focus on each from beginning to end, cooking-up different categories.

“This helps to expand my skills. I really enjoy pastry-making and I particularly love cooking fish too.”

Ben’s tutor Chrissy routinely visits him in the workplace to check on his progress and go through his work books and any topics that he needs support with.

He said: “For me, an apprenticeship really works well. Yes it’s hard fitting in working in the kitchens and working on assignments, but it can be done. My advice is keep on track of your assignments, don’t let it build up and manage your time well.

“I’m in a win-win situation as I’m learning on-the-job, getting paid and learning a life skill. Others on my course are enjoying it too and we know that putting in the effort now will bring us rewards. I can see a future now and one day I’d love to be a sous chef, and maybe do more studying.”

Head chef at The White Horse, Craig Peters, said: “Ben came to us a little unsure of where he was heading, but it wasn’t long before he showed a passion for cooking and gained a real enjoyment for the role as his skills developed.

“We keep his study files as up-to-date and relevant as possible using short videos to demonstrate to his tutors what he’s learned. He’s now a fully-fledged member of our team and often comes to me with ideas of dishes with unusual flavour combinations, showing he’s thinking about food from a contemporary angle.

“He is an asset to the industry with a long and fruitful career ahead of him.”

If Ben’s apprenticeship journey has inspired you to want to study, check out our apprenticeship programmes.

Why choose West Notts?

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100% A Level pass rate in 2020

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Best A Level provider in Mansfield and Ashfield for student progress*

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One of the top colleges in the UK for student satisfaction**

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An extensive bus service across Mansfield and the surrounding area

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£50m investment in our facilities since 2008

*Value added is a measure of a student’s progress against their starting point
**Learner Exit Survey 2017/18
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