JUST three months after leaving school, 18-year-old Josh Prudden of Bainbridge has landed a job in one of the country’s finest restaurants – Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, near Oxford.
He has been accepted as a trainee commis de rang – a waiter in the elite French cookery tradition – after two interviews and a tough on-the-job trial.
“I still can’t believe it. It’s all happened so quickly,” said Josh.
For parents Karen and Tim it’s an especially proud moment: two years ago their elder son, Tristan, now sous chef at the Aysgarth Falls Hotel, was named Student of the Year at Gordon Ramsay’s Tante Marie School of Cookery in Woking.
While studying for A-levels at the Wensleydale School, Josh worked part-time at the King’s Arms in Askrigg and took a fulltime job there when he left in July.
Initially, he had no clear idea of what he wanted to do.
“I found I enjoyed front-ofhouse work, meeting and chatting to people, and began to gain confidence. I realised I could make a career of it and decided to aim as high as possible,” he said.
He emailed his CV and a covering note to the two-Michelin starred Le Manoir. After a successful telephone interview, he was invited for a day-long trial, which saw him thrown in at the deep end helping to serve breakfasts to guests at the luxury hotel, followed by lunch for 66 people, then a face-to-face interview.
“I was very nervous at first but everyone was fantastic and really put me at ease, not at all what I’d expected. The staff and the customers were friendly and approachable. It was hard work but a fantastic day,” said Josh.
He was also impressed by the efficiency and thoroughness of the whole operation – 20 minutes to clear breakfast tables and prepare the restaurant for lunch, a “buddy”, or mentor, assigned to him for the day, and staff meetings before meals were served, so they knew exactly what had to be done.
During the trial Josh was introduced to executive head chef, Gary Jones, deputy to Raymond Blanc.
“He was one of the nicest people I’ve met. Before I left he said ‘I hope the next chapter of your career will be here with us’. I will never forget those words. It was so encouraging,” said Josh.
The restaurant has a worldwide reputation for the quality of its cooking and service and its home-grown, organic produce.
But for Josh, even more important is the top chef’s commitment to first-class training for all his staff: it’s estimated that some 25 Michelin-starred chefs have been trained by him.