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Belfast’s James St. cooks up fresh opportunities for budding apprentices


James St Group launches new apprenticeship programme in partnership with Belfast Met for 2022.

Northern Ireland top chef, entrepreneur and hospitality champion Niall McKenna is urging eight ambitious young people with a taste for fine food and culinary expertise to step up to the plate and join its apprenticeship programme for 2022.

With an award-winning reputation for both fine and casual dining, for more than two decades, Niall has been the driver behind Belfast’s best-known restaurants James St. and Hadskis. His James St. Group is also behind Northern Ireland’s premier cookery school, Waterman House, which opened last year.

The new and enhanced apprenticeship programme, announced during National Apprenticeship Week, provides invaluable on-the-job training, experience and mentoring combined with professional learning in partnership with Belfast Met, providing the perfect recipe to kick-start a rewarding career as a chef or in a front-of-house role.

Offering an unrivalled ‘learn-while-you-earn’ opportunity, Niall hopes to give a new generation of hospitality hopefuls the skills, training and confidence to make it to the top in this fast-growing industry where execution, taste and delivery are key.

Launching the James St. Apprenticeship Programme for 2022 as part of National Apprenticeship Week, Niall said:
“Now is the busiest time for the hospitality industry which is bouncing back and confident in its future and there is strong demand and many great opportunities for young men and women who want a fast-track career backed with the best training and qualifications available.

For those with ambition, a great attitude, creativity and a good sense of humour, we promise best-in-class mentorship, experience and learning in an exciting and friendly environment that delivers a recipe for personal and professional success.

“I’m really proud of the talent we’ve helped to foster over the years as part of our programme including our own Aaron McNeice – now head chef at Hadskis and up and coming trainer at our vibrant cookery school at Waterman House.”

Niall, who started cooking aged just 15, studied professional cookery at Belfast Met before moving to London to train under several Michelin-starred chefs including Gary Rhodes and Marco Pierre White before returning home to open his first award-winning restaurant, James Street South in 2003.

Niall has been offering young people the chance to train and learn in all his Belfast restaurants since 2014.

The James St. Apprenticeship Programme, which includes training to NVQ Level 2 at Belfast Met, kicks off in September. Candidates aged between 16 and 24 are urged to register on their website by emailing or phoning 028 9560 0701.

Hadskis head chef, Aaron McNeice, said: “This year’s programme promises a real menu of success that mixes top notch real-life training, dedicated mentorship and cutting-edge theory that will help to craft an outstanding career in the industry. With a big love of food and a thriving hospitality environment, I’ve never looked back. I’m delighted to be helping to lead this year’s new recruits and excited by what this opportunity will bring for a new generation of local young men and women.”

Apprentices will also get the chance to work with top chef Ryan Stringer, who has just returned to Belfast to take the lead as Executive chef at James St. Previously Executive Chef at the ground-breaking ELY group of wine bars and restaurants in Dublin, the Dungannon native returns to Northern Ireland for the first time in over a decade with exciting plans for the celebrated restaurant.

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