An apprenticeship has given a young Ballymena man the recipe for a successful career.
James Blair (18) is a professional cookery apprentice at the Galgorm Resort & Spa Hotel and Northern Regional College.
He said: “I love the creativity that comes with being a chef, you get to make people happy with your food. So when I was given the chance to learn more and get hands-on experience in the kitchens of one of the biggest players in Northern Ireland’s hospitality sector I just couldn’t pass up that opportunity. It was a no-brainer for me.”
James was studying for his A-Levels in Nutrition and Food Science, Life and Health Sciences and Applied ITC at Cambridge House Grammar School when he had the opportunity to take up work experience in the Ramble Inn. For James – who had always dreamed of being a chef – his time in the Inn’s kitchens led to the realisation that his passion could be his full-time career. When he found out about the apprenticeships with Northern Regional College and the Galgorm Resort & Spa, he jumped at the chance.
James decided to leave school after his AS-Levels and hasn’t looked back since. He said: “I really enjoyed school and I had thought that afterwards I would maybe go on to catering college. However, this apprenticeship is a chance to get experience in the industry and offers me an immediate route into the career I love – why would I put that off for another year?
“With the apprenticeship you get to earn while you learn, and you have no student loans to worry about paying back at the end.”
But most importantly, it’s the hands-on experience he has received throughout his training which James claims is most valuable.
He said: “You can read in a text-book that a professional kitchen is a high-pressure environment, but unless you’ve
been in there at peak dinner-serving time, you can’t truly understand it.”
He would “most definitely” recommend the apprenticeship scheme to someone else. His advice: “Just go for it.”