Fifteen Cornwall Celebrates Graduation of Second Group of Apprentices


After a year of hard work in the busy Fifteen Cornwall kitchen, the second cohort of apprentices from the beach side restaurant graduated from the Fifteen training programme on Wednesday 18th June, at a ceremony sponsored by Gauntlet and Brit Insurance, held in the Mediterranean biome at the Eden Project.
The 12 graduates celebrated their achievements with family, friends, staff and supporters, who cheered them on as they were presented individually with their own Fifteen certificates and unique dog tags. Joining the graduation celebration, dance troupe Flava, the Cornish stars of the TV show ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ entertained the graduates and guests with their show stopping moves.

This year’s graduation ceremony saw a double celebration for James Bennetts, 22 from Truro, who was presented with the Cornwall Foundation of Promise’s Personal Development Award in recognition for the commitment he has shown for using the Fifteen Cornwall opportunity to turn his life around whilst acting as an inspiration to other members of the cohort.

Since it launched just over two years ago, Fifteen Cornwall has been open every day of the year and has served more than 150,000 diners with high quality food, prepared by the apprentices and supporting team of professional chefs.

Offering his congratulations to the 2008 graduates, Jamie Oliver, Fifteen’s inspirational founder said:

“These young people have done brilliantly over the past year and each one fully deserves to graduate and to go on to have a fantastic career.

“The Cornwall Foundation of Promise has once again done an outstanding job to help these guys to achieve graduation and the restaurant keeps on winning awards so it’s all good down in Cornwall right now. Well done, guys.”

Dave Meneer, Chief Executive of Fifteen Cornwall said:

“Fifteen Cornwall offers an amazing opportunity for the young people it supports but it’s by no means an easy ride. Lasting the distance and making it to graduation takes a lot of hard work and commitment. I’m really proud to have played a very small part in this group’s success.

“I’m also delighted by the success of the restaurant in making such a valuable boost to the local economy, both to our suppliers and almost 100 staff now working at the restaurant. I hope that our graduates will look back at Fifteen Cornwall as being an important turning point in their lives and continue to make us proud by becoming a valuable asset to the businesses they go on to work for.”

The South West RDA invested £532,400 in the development of Fifteen Cornwall in recognition of its contribution to tackling social exclusion in Cornwall and the boost to the food and drink and tourism sectors in South West England. This investment helped to pay for the conversion of the top floor of the Extreme Academy, including a number of green measures such as a heat recovery system, rainwater recycling and low energy lighting.

Stephen Bohane, head of business development at the South West RDA:

“Our role is to invest to unlock business potential in Cornwall and in the last two years we have seen Fifteen Cornwall flourish into an award-winning enterprise. More importantly, we have seen it unlock the potential of some of our most disadvantaged youngsters and I look forward to seeing them go forward and establish careers of their own. Well done to all of them.”

Describing in her own words the difference that Fifteen Cornwall has made to her life, graduate Donna Weston, 26 from Newquay said:

“Before Fifteen Cornwall I was struggling with substance addiction and was on an electronic tag – nobody would employ me because of my criminal record. Fifteen Cornwall has changed my life – I now have a profession and I’ve grown up a lot. I’ve discovered that I’ve got some really good qualities: I’m patient, I can take criticism and I can help others to stick with the course when it gets tough.

“I’ve got lots of plans for the future now, I’m going back to college to complete NVQ level three in patisserie, and then I’d like to run my own business making unique wedding and birthday cakes. I know that if I hadn’t been accepted by Fifteen Cornwall, I’d still be addicted and maybe even back in prison. For the first time ever, my mum can say she’s proud of me.”

For graduate Joe Mawson, 21 from Falmouth, Fifteen Cornwall has also been a positive influence in his life:

“Before applying to Fifteen Cornwall, I’d been doing nothing with my life. Coming here seemed like a great opportunity to gain qualifications and get experience in the restaurant industry. I’ve discovered that I’m actually a very capable person, that I’m positive and can make people laugh even when it gets really tough in the kitchen. I’ve found I can be creative, too.

“When I started at Fifteen Cornwall I was worried about how I’d handle the discipline needed on the course, but it’s been fine – now I’m proud of how motivated I’ve become. Getting my NVQ 2 was a high point – so was dining with Jamie! I loved spending time in Italy and I’m planning to travel after I graduate – I want to work in restaurants abroad and learn about food in other countries.”

Part of the journey of becoming a professional chef is having a passion for good food, and graduate Lee Head, 24, from Falmouth describes how his tastes have changed over the past year:

“When I started at Fifteen Cornwall, making a jacket potato was about the limit of my cooking ability. Now I’m doing things like potato gnocchi with oxtail ragu.

“Being at Fifteen Cornwall has changed me so much – I’ve got loads of new interests and a real passion for cooking. Working in the group with the other trainees and chefs has given me confidence and focus – I was proud that I was the first to finish my NVQ folder at college. My family and friends are amazed at the changes in me – they can see that it’s sorted me out and made me take life seriously again.”

Before his graduation Peter Lane, 24 from Bodmin, spent four weeks on placement with the St Enodoc Hotel in Rock where he has just secured a permanent job. Looking back on his experience with Fifteen Cornwall he said:

“Having jumped from job to job and spent time on benefits, I decided I needed to focus on something and get a trade. I needed a challenge and getting a catering qualification seemed a good solution.

“My biggest obstacle has been overcoming my shyness – Fifteen Cornwall has brought me out of myself and now I know that, actually, I can talk to people and really get on with them. I’ve met so many new people, learned loads of new skills and gained a lot of confidence – my friends and family think it’s brilliant. The sourcing trips were the best part – finding out where all the ingredients come from was great, and going to Italy to learn all about Italian food was brilliant.”

Looking back on what the programme has achieved in the past year Henry Ashworth, chairman of the board of trustees for the Cornwall Foundation of Promise describes how the programme has developed and plans for the future:

“Fifteen Cornwall is all about learning, and that is as true for the trustees and the staff of the Cornwall Foundation of Promise as it is for the trainees. We’ve learned some valuable lessons in terms of how best to support and help the trainees in overcoming their individual challenges. We’ve also come to understand that the tension between operating a top class restaurant whilst also developing an exceptional social enterprise is not only a continual challenge; it is healthy, essential and the factor that makes Fifteen Cornwall absolutely unique.

“We are using what we’ve learnt to ensure that we offer Cornwall’s young people the best opportunities and that probably means becoming more flexible in future. We are already experimenting with when to take on our trainees and what’s the best number at one time. We are also looking into diversifying the training available from The Cornwall Foundation of Promise to include fields such as front of house, bakery and possibly even extreme sports. As Fifteen Cornwall moves into its third year, we intend to keep delivering on our promise to turn lives around and help young people to fulfil their potential.”

The second cohort of apprentices started at Cornwall College in January 2007 for an intensive 12 week course to learn the necessary food preparation and hygiene foundation skills to start in the restaurant last May. During their time with the programme, sourcing trips have formed an important part of getting the young chefs excited about cooking; as well as visiting local food producers the young chefs experienced the authentic taste of Italian food and culture in February with a field trip to the province of Puglia in Italy.

Every step of the way the apprentice chefs have been supported by a dedicated Support and Welfare Officer and a Training and Development Chef to help them overcome problems, both personal and professional, and give them the best chance of making a success of their opportunity.

As the 2008 graduates leave Fifteen Cornwall, their places in the kitchen have been taken up by 11 new apprentice chefs, with applications currently being invited for more students to join the training programme in the autumn as the programme realigns their training timetable so that future intakes have time to settle into their new positions in the restaurant before the start of the busy summer season.

Straight forward and quick to complete application forms are available from the Cornwall Foundation of Promise by calling 01637 861000 (opt 2). Forms can also be requested online at The closing date for applications is 30th June.

Next year all of the students will be recruited in the summer to join at Cornwall College on September and start in the Fifteen Cornwall kitchen in January.

To make a reservation at the award winning Fifteen Cornwall and see the new apprentices settling into their new careers call 01637 861000 (reservation lines are open from 9am-7pm, 7 days a week) or book online at Cornwall Fifteen

Notes to editors

  • Fifteen Cornwall opened on 18th May 2006 with an innovative menu of the best seasonal and local produce, a relaxed atmosphere, talented chefs and an incredible view over a beautiful two-mile beach.
  • The restaurant is dedicated to the same inspirational social enterprise goals as set out by Jamie Oliver and the team at Fifteen London. Each year the restaurant gives up to 20 trainee-chefs the once in a lifetime opportunity to turn their lives around.
  • All profits from Fifteen Cornwall go to the registered charity, The Cornwall Foundation of Promise. The charity’s purpose is the creation of fantastic career opportunities for disadvantaged, local, young people, helping them every step of the way to achieve their potential. The restaurant also provides a valuable boost to Cornwall’s tourism industry and makes use of the abundance of high quality local food producers in the region.
  • The project has received more than £1 million in grants from Objective One and the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA), with additional support from Jobcentre Plus, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), Cornwall College, Cornwall County Council, Restormel Borough Council, St Austell Brewery, HSBC Bank, Barclays Bank and The Hotel and Extreme Academy, Watergate Bay.
  • For Fifteen Cornwall reservations and menu information visit or call 01637 861000 (lines open between 9.00am and 7.00pm seven days a week).