When Jamie Oliver blasted on to the celebrity chef scene many were quick to put him down.

His rustic presentation and use of slang was dismissed as being arrogant, naive and lacking in experience.

INBV-Jamie Oliver shutterstock

Jamie Oliver demonstrating his unique style

But the truth is he was talented, capable and spoke to a generation of people who yearned to find a reason to love cooking.

Niall McKenna

Niall McKenna

Whilst cheffing has become one of the most popular career choices it’s also renowned for being one of the toughest.

This week Belfast chef Niall McKenna launched his 2015-16 Apprentice Scheme which will offer 16 people aged 16-24 the chance to work in one of his four restaurants.

The year long placements across James Street South Bar + Grill, Hadskis, The Cookery School and Cast & Crew will combine on-the-job training with two days attendance at the Belfast Metropolitan College to gain their professional qualifications.

And for anyone thinking about applying, here’s Niall’s top 4 tips to making it in the catering industry:

1. Be prepared to learn
“from the bottom up, master every skill you’re given the chance to learn” said Niall.

2. Work as hard as you can
Niall advises: “Offer to help wherever possible – chefs always appreciate an extra pair of hands and you’ll get to learn more with on-the-job experience”.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
“Although do take care and pick your moment” said Niall, adding: “Mid–service isn’t the best time for asking a chef for information”.

4. Enjoy what you do
Niall said: “It’s a privilege to cook award-winning food for our many guests and I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.”

Learning on the job:

Cain Dornan

Cain Dornan

One trainee who completed the scheme is Cian Dornan, who applied for the programme after travelling.

He said: “When I came home from travelling I worked in the kitchen at Nandos and really enjoyed it.

“A friend of the family saw the advert for the Apprentice Scheme and I immediately knew this would be an amazing opportunity.

“From the very start our training was fast paced, but incredibly organized. I have been looking after the sides and the garnish as well as helping to prep the other sections and I’m now working towards prepping the meat and fish for James Street South guests.

“It’s been an incredible year so far, but the highlight has been travelling to Paris with Niall for a major food exhibition, where we worked with Invest NI showcasing local produce which are the hallmark of the James Street menus.”

And Cian’s advice?

He said: “Always listen to what you are being told, and take it on board asking as many questions as you can along the way.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I would encourage anyone who is serious about a career in the hospitality industry to apply.”

Applications for the James Street South Apprentice Scheme can be downloaded at jamesstreetsouth.co.uk/about/apprenticeships. Closing date is August 2.

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