Compass chef Andrew Draper with some of the students in this year's Junior Chef Academy

Budding young chefs cook up success at banquet for 40 guests

Cardiff pupils get a taste of life in the kitchen through catering masterclasses

BUDDING young chefs from Cardiff West Community High School have graduated from the Junior Chef Academy.

Chefs from Compass Cymru, a catering and food service provider, provided masterclasses over 10 weeks. The students were given hands-on experience to expand their culinary knowledge and skills.

At the end of the course, the students prepared a three-course meal for more than 40 guests, including parents and school representatives, at their graduation ceremony at Cardiff City Stadium.

Lereah, one of the young chefs, said: “The best bit of the Junior Chef Academy is cooking food and taking it home for my mum to try my cooking, she loves it!”

Agnieska van Veen, a food and nutrition teacher at Cardiff West Community High School, was impressed with the commitment the students showed.

“Those who stuck with us were not only asked to do it but they wanted to do it,” she said.

“Students come out of their shells. Some would struggle with anything written. This is practical skill-based, and it gives them a self-esteem boost.”

Although Food and Nutrition is a mandatory subject at Key Stage 3 in schools across Wales, Ms van Veen said it was difficult to fund lessons.

“The government gives us some money, but it’s not enough,” she said.

Agnieska said she has had to start asking parents to pay for the ingredients, which some families cannot afford. She hopes introduce voluntary donations, so that ingredients can be bought in bulk.

Recently, Culverhouse Cross Tesco in Ely donated 10 whole chickens for the students to use in their lessons.

This is the second year of the Junior Chef Academy, which is run in partnership with Cardiff Commitment, an organisation that helps young people transition into the world of work, and Cardiff and Vale College.

The initiative was sponsored by Brakes, the wholesale food supplier.  

Cabinet Member for Education, Councillor Sarah Merry, said: “This unique programme goes beyond traditional education, offering students a hands-on experience to develop culinary competence and gain insights into the vast and dynamic hospitality industry.”

This year, the Welsh Government plans to set out legislation to restrict the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar or salt.

“Made for Wales” GCSEs being introduced from September 2025 will include changes to the curriculum of GCSE Food and Nutrition, to ensure pupils are taught about cuisines from different communities.