Published on December 8, 2022

Four of North Hertfordshire College’s Level 3 Professional Cookery students took part in a phenomenal work placement with Fortnum & Mason in November! The students worked alongside Executive Chefs from the renowned establishment in preparation for and during a private event held for an international bank.

The experience kicked off with James Wheatley working in the Fortnum’s kitchens to participate in mise en place (preparation). On one day alone, James prepared some venison wellingtons, 900 arancini, and peeled 800 soft-boiled eggs that he then turned into scotch eggs – that’s a lot of eggs! James also joined in with lunch service at 45 Jermyn St, one of Fortnum’s fine-dining restaurants, to pick up some practical experience of working at a fast-pace and high standard.

Fortnum & Mason’s Executive Head Chef, Gerson Oppelt, described James as having settled in well to the team of 16 chefs who were working on the production. He said: “James is learning to work on a timeline, in a big volume, and is developing a logistics mindset for big events… It’s good for him to talk about his ideas. I think he enjoys having a fresh set of eyes and mentoring to guide him.”

Once James completed his own Fortnum’s experience, it was time to hand over to Emily Simkins, Phil Wheatley, and Tyler Johnson for their turn. The three students were involved in the multi-floor private event on the night, working alongside Fortnum’s team of Executive Chefs to support them in their work in delivering a luxury experience for guests. The exclusive opportunity has certainly left its mark on our student chefs, who all finished their placements feeling inspired and ready for their next challenge.

Reflecting on his experience with Fortnum’s, Phil said: “My weekend at Fortnum & Mason’s has truly inspired me to push myself further. This opportunity, organised by the College, has resulted in an offer of a full-time job with Fortnum’s, one of the most prestigious companies in our industry. For that, I am grateful to the College and Anthony for the continued support and enrichment for all the students who are willing to put the work in.”

The collaboration between Fortnum & Mason and North Hertfordshire College’s Catering department forms part of Fortnum’s new future talent programme. Designed to recognise and support young chefs at the start of their career journey, the future talent programme supports students in gaining professional kitchen experience. Sanjeda Ali, Early Careers Learning & Development Specialist at Fortnum & Mason, said: “The programme creates pathways for aspiring chefs to break into the world of luxury hospitality… We look forward to working with North Hertfordshire College on the next phase of our culinary programme.”

Thank you again to Fortnum & Mason for offering such an amazing opportunity to our students and for playing a key role in their career journey.

If you’re interested in starting your own career in the Hospitality and Catering sector, why not check out North Hertfordshire College’s Hospitality and Catering courses? With NHC, you can stay close to home as you gain experience that helps you go far in your future career.