Leading leisure operator Cairn Group went into the wild to develop its cohort of budding chefs in the making.
Forming part of its own national training programme Cairn Academy, 11 chefs from across the company headed to South West Scotland with the operator’s group executive chef Rodney Jones for a day of foraging before cooking their finds.
Designed to enhance their knowledge and skills, the inspirational culinary activity saw the group meet Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods who led the expedition through woodland, hedgerow and coastal areas.
Mark shared his skills on the ability to identify edible species, then lit some stoves for an al fresco demonstration of cooking with the wild ingredients collected, providing great inspiration and insight for our ambitious chefs.
Next was a trip to Braehead Foods’ development kitchen for a game demonstration as the group learned how to pair foraged ingredients with game, and put their new-found knowledge to the test in another cook-off.
Cairn Academy launched in October last year to facilitate apprenticeship and development opportunities across Cairn Group’s UK-wide hotel portfolio, including apprentice chefs as well as areas from housekeeping and leisure to reception and maintenance. The academy welcomed its second cohort in July, creating apprenticeship opportunities for 40 new and existing employees.
Richard Adams, HR director at Cairn Group said: “The challenges around recruiting and retaining great chefs are well documented. We are committed to developing the next generation of culinary talent by offering exciting experiences like this as part of our own dedicated academy programme. I’m pleased to see our current cohort of chefs going from strength to strength as they work towards achieving a widely recognised qualification. We want the apprenticeship to be more than just a qualification though – and the opportunity to learn and network outside the normal environment is really important to us.’
Rodney Jones, group executive chef at Cairn Group said: “The group had a fantastic day in the wilds of Scotland learning all about ingredients, flavour combinations and different cooking methods. A huge thanks to Galloway Wild Foods and Braehead Foods for the part they played.
“Activities like this allow our chefs to gain an insight into all areas of cookery, and throughout their training they will have the chance to work in a selection of different kitchens to broaden their experience, as well as take part in educational trips.”
The group has welcomed further development opportunities for its chefs UK-wide with the addition of three trainers qualified to teach Level 3 Food Safety which will be taking place across the properties this autumn.
Additionally, adopting Flow, the learning and development solution has been key. Completion of the online modules and comprehensive reporting have helped to drive training compliance but the group are now starting to drive a more blended approach via Flow, with access to written content and the option to book onto face to face training.
Richard added: “We have significantly invested in learning and development across the group. The introduction of Flow throughout the estate is just the start of our blended approach which will be utilised by all of our people. We have also just enrolled 60 delegates from 25 properties to begin our Leadership Development Programme this month. As an industry we expect a lot of people. For those employees who want to progress as supervisors and managers the skill set gets broader still, so via Cairn Academy we want to open up opportunities for learning and development that will develop our leaders of the future”
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