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TV chef Liam cooks up a treat with jobs for pupils from his old school

Celebrity chef Liam Dillon has teamed up with his old school to create a hospitality training programme for teenagers.

Liam Dillon, owner of The Boat Inn at Lichfield, and headmistress of King Edward VI School Lichfield Jane Rutherford with sixth-form senior prefects at the school
Liam Dillon, owner of The Boat Inn at Lichfield, and headmistress of King Edward VI School Lichfield Jane Rutherford with sixth-form senior prefects at the school

The scheme will see five sixth-formers from King Edward VI School, Lichfield, spend a year working at Liam’s award-winning restaurant The Boat Inn, Staffordshire's only restaurant to hold three AA rosettes.

Liam, who has appeared twice on the BBC's Great British Menu, is working with his old school by providing a paid placement which will see the youngsters work front of house, in the kitchens and outside in the kitchen garden for an academic year.

On successful completion of the course they will be awarded a certificate of merit, which will either help them gain entry into the hospitality industry or support them in applications for jobs and higher education.

Liam, whose restaurant features in the Michelin guide, said it was the support he received at school which encouraged him to pursue a career in catering.

“Like many teenagers I didn’t know what I wanted to do," he said.

"At one point I was going to join the Marines but caught the cookery bug at school and progressed up through the ranks, because my teachers helped tune my desire for learning. I had a great deal of support from my teachers and they contributed to where I am now as a chef, business owner and person.”

Liam said he hoped the scheme would change the way people view the food and drink trade.

“The hospitality industry, like many others, has been negatively affected by the pandemic and Brexit," he said.

"Hundreds of thousands of people have left the sector and unfortunately, we haven’t seen enough people join to fill the gap.

“Many see working in a pub or restaurant as a ‘basic’ job or rite of passage while studying. I want to change this attitude. It’s hard work in hospitality.”

King Edward VI School headmistress Jane Rutherford said finding high quality work experience placements was sometimes difficult.

"We want to support students taking up part-time paid jobs to have a positive experience and get the balance right with their studies and so a programme like this benefits everyone," she said.

"Higher education establishments and employers want well-rounded students with academic results and key life skills.

"This scheme will benefit the school, The Boat Inn and most importantly our students.

"I can’t wait to see our students start.”

Liam added that the scheme was more than just work experience.

“This is a paid placement," he said.

"I value my staff and want them to feel part of a team.

"Our new sixth formers will get to know what it's like to be part of something long-term and get a good wage at the same time.

“I don’t know of anything like this in the UK, so I hope it will become a blueprint for the industry.”

It is not the first time Liam has worked with his old school.

When coronavirus restrictions were in place, he delivered ready-cooked meals every week to help keep staff motivated.

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