TOP chefs at a leading hotel are serving their expertise to the next generation with the launch of a new apprentice scheme.

Swinton Park, the 21,000 acre estate of Lord and Lady Masham, has teamed up with Darlington College to launch of its new catering academy.

Three candidates will be offered the chance to become apprentices at the establishment, at Masham, which has just invested £8.5m in a new spa.

The estate boasts Samuel’s, a three rosette AA fine dining restaurant, The Terrace brasserie and Bivouac café.

It has also run a catering school for many years and has now linked up with Darlington College to deliver a full-blown apprenticeship scheme with tutors assisting and assessing candidates and organising master classes.

The pilot project will be launched formally on September 9 at Swinton Park when anyone interested can inspect the facilities on pre-booked tours.

Claire Turner, Darlington College marketing manager, said: "This is a rare opportunity for anyone with a passion for food.

"The apprenticeship is designed to cater for all abilities, from food preparation to high-end cuisine, giving them the chance to work on the full range of catering, from events such as weddings, to breakfasts in the hotel and a-la-carte in the restaurant."

Kevin Hughes, Swinton Park chef developer, said the food industry is "crying out" for chefs globally and praised the level of training on offer on the course, saying their was no better place for the ambitious to hone their skills.

If the pilot is successful it could be extended to people interested in beauty therapy who would craft their skills in the new spa with the college’s help.