Q&A with Zoe & Ana, Fuller’s Level 2 & Level 3 Chef Apprentices

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Ever wondered what studying to become a chef is really like? Fuller’s Chef Apprentices Zoe Songhurst and Ana Moreira didn’t hold back when we asked them what it’s like to do a Chef Apprenticeship with Fuller’s. 

Zoe has almost finished her Level 2 Commis Chef Apprenticeship, while Ana has completed hers and is now doing Fuller’s Level 3 Chef de Partie Programme.

They both spend one day per week studying at the University of West London, and four days per week working at The Drayton Court in Ealing, alongside Head Chef, Rafael Tiglao. Fuller’s Chef Apprenticeships take between 13 and 18 months to complete, resulting in internationally recognised qualifications.

We asked Zoe [left] and Ana [right] why they applied for Fuller’s Chef Apprenticeship Scheme, what the programme is like, and what advice they have for budding chefs.

Adam Sykes

Why did you apply for the apprenticeship scheme?

Zoe: “I just love cooking. I was a kitchen porter when I was 15, and while I was scrubbing pots I saw the chefs making food that was so beautiful, and I wanted to do that. I studied hospitality and catering for two years at college before starting an apprenticeship with Fuller’s.”

Ana: “I was working for Itsu and I enjoyed it, but something was missing. I wanted to be a chef, so I started looking online for courses and found Fuller’s Chef Apprenticeship Programme. The qualifications are recognised all over the world, so I did the Level 2 programme with Fuller’s and after I finished, I started the Level 3 programme.”

Who inspired you to get into cooking?

Zoe: “My mum. She’s a rubbish cook, but she’s the one that pushed me to do the apprenticeship programme and keep at it. Now I teach her and cook for her when I’m at home.”

Ana: “My mum got me into cooking, too. But she was a really good cook! She wasn’t a chef, but she would cook big family meals when I was growing up in Brazil. I have childhood memories of us all sitting at the table with six or seven pots of comfort food.”

What’s it like working at The Drayton Court together? 

Ana: “We have a big difference in age, I’m in my 40s and Zoe is 19, but we have a great time working together. She’s always happy in the kitchen, no matter how busy it is. And she’s doing really well, because studying and doing the job at the same time is not easy, especially when you’re young.”

Zoe: “We support each other. The kitchen becomes your family – we’re all best friends.”

What it's like doing a Chef Apprenticeship with Fuller's
Becoming a qualified chef:
Zoe has almost finished her Level 2 Commis Chef Apprenticeship with Fuller's.

What’s it like learning from Head Chef, Raphael Tiglao?

Zoe: “He’s tough on us, but it’s so we can learn. We have a lot of fun in the kitchen, and he makes us want to improve and always do better."

Ana: “He has a lot of knowledge and he’s a good teacher. He’s really supportive and we can talk to him about anything.”

What have you found most challenging about the apprenticeship scheme?

Zoe: “The workload. When I first started, I struggled for the first few weeks. But then it started to get a little easier. It’s not easy, but you’ve got to go for what you want and think about your future. There’s a lot of paper work to keep up with, but you just need to get it done.”

Ana: “It’s a challenge to have a work-life balance when you’re working and studying at the same time, especially when you don’t work ‘normal’ hours.”

Zoe: “It has been challenging, but when you push yourself to do something you want to do, you can look back and say, ‘wow, I can’t believe I did it!’”

What’s your biggest strength in the kitchen?

Zoe: “Mine would be cleaning – I like to work in a clean kitchen, and if I see any mess I have to clean it up...”

Ana: “Adapting to new situations and working well with others. Communication, really.”

What it's like doing a Chef Apprenticeship with Fuller's
The next level: Ana completed the Commis Chef Apprenticeship and is doing Fuller’s Level 3 Chef de Partie Programme.

What are your biggest learnings so far?

Zoe: “Everything! But my knife skills have improved a lot, and my tolerance for pain. But I learn something new every single day.

Ana: “That it’s OK to make mistakes. I didn’t pass my assessment first time but I’m not ashamed of it. I knew I could do it, but on assessment day I don’t know what happened – I panicked, and I couldn’t reach the excellence that was required. But I had all the support of everybody, and I realised that when mistakes happen it’s not the end of the world. I took the assessment again and passed.”

Zoe: “You learn from your mistakes. For me, sometimes I need to make the same mistakes a few times just to be sure I really learn…”   

What achievement are you most proud of and why?

Ana: “The moment I got my Level 2 Commis Chef qualification. After a year and a half of hard work, it felt so good to see my name on the certificate.”

Zoe: “I honestly didn’t think I would get this far. I wanted to give up halfway through because of the stress, but then I was like no, I’m not giving up. It can get hard, and you might think that you can’t do it, but you can – you just need to push yourself. Now I’m a proud and happy chef.”

What do you like about working for Fuller’s?

Zoe: “The people! Without a great team, nothing would work. Positive, happy people make you want to come to work each day.”

Ana: “Fuller’s is great for training. They invest a lot in training programmes and development for staff, and not many employers do that.”

What advice would you give new apprentices?

Zoe: “Smile - you need good energy in the kitchen. If other people are in a bad mood it puts everyone else in a bad mood. Whereas if you have good energy the opposite happens. So just be happy! Even if you make a mistake, be happy that you’ve learnt from it. You also need to have passion for cooking and food, and a constant desire for self-improvement.”

Ana: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to start again with a new career, don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Have confidence in yourself and know that everyone is human.”

What it's like doing a Chef Apprenticeship with Fuller's

"It’s not easy, but you’ve got to go for what you want and think about your future," - Fuller's Chef Apprentice Zoe.

Become a qualified Chef with Fuller’s

The Fuller’s Level 2 Commis Chef Apprenticeship Programme is designed for anyone looking to have the best start to a chef career, by providing all the skills and knowledge required to become a qualified chef.

Fuller's Level 3 Chef de Partie Apprenticeship Programme is for thos already at Commis Chef level who want to progress to the next level in their chef career.

Apprentices study one day per week at one of Fuller’s partner colleges or universities, and work for four days per week at one of our selected managed pubs, where they are mentored by one of our head chefs.

We have two intakes for apprenticeships each year – in March and September – but we recruit all year round in our pubs, so you can join us at any time and go onto the next available programme.

Find out more about Fuller’s Chef Apprenticeship Programmes: Chef Apprenticeships.

Supporting Hospitality Apprenticeship Week

Our apprenticeship programme was launched in 2015 and has gone from strength to strength. We have 90 apprentices currently on the programme and are committed to growing that to 200.

That’s why Fuller’s are proud to support the first Hospitality Apprenticeship Week (5-9 August 2019). We are participating by providing an insight into life as an apprentice with Fuller’s through the stories of those taking our programme – showing the positive impacts apprenticeships can make in people’s lives and careers.

Follow Fuller's Careers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to see more.

Browse Fuller’s jobs

Do you want an exciting career in hospitality? Browse available jobs in Fuller’s pubs – from kitchen porter and chef roles to front of house positions.

Browse Pub & Hotel Jobs.

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