30 years story: Cornwall Council

Catering students

From trainee chef to business owner engaging Erasmus+ apprentices

After 13 years of coordinating Leonardo and Erasmus+ projects, Cornwall Council Education Business Partnership is celebrating one of its biggest success stories, Ollie Clarke, opening his own restaurant in Paris.

As we celebrate 30 years from Erasmus to Erasmus+ this year, we are highlighting the inspiring achievements of projects past and present. For our focus on 'Youth employability and skills, entrepreneurship and jobs of tomorrow', Ollie Clarke shares his experience of his own Leonardo placement to developing employability and entrepreneurship skills of young Erasmus+ participants today. 

Ollie's story

Ollie took part in a two week Leonardo Mobility placement in 2008 organised by Cornwall Council at The Hotel Warwick while he was training at The Seafood Restaurant. After finishing his apprenticeship, Ollie moved to Paris and became a chef in some top Parisian restaurants. More recently, Ollie Clarke in his kitchenOllie put his business skills to the test by buying his own restaurant, La Régalade - Alesia, with his life and business partner Julie Duckett.

"Coming from Padstow to Paris was certainly a big eye-opener for us; slowly but surely we began to learn more and gain more responsibility over the two weeks. The idea of moving to Paris before that would have been scary and actually being here and living it for two weeks made us realise that it’s not too difficult. It was hard, but it was very enjoyable and it opened the gates for us to decide to move to Paris which was a huge step in our lives and our careers so I’m very grateful to it. It was tough and that shouldn’t be underestimated, coming into a Parisian kitchen is a challenge, but one that I couldn’t recommend highly enough.

"The Leonardo placement was an important first step in my decision to move to Paris, mainly for the reason that it showed us how easy it was. How different it may be from home shows you at the same time how similar it is and how, in a kitchen, nothing really changes across borders. I had Stephane Delourme as a head chef and he was also instrumental in me moving over to Paris as he spent most of his early career as a chef there. Erasmus+ was a key step in that direction, and I wouldn’t be here without Stephane."

It was tough, but it was a fantastic opportunity and it set me on the path for where I am now. - Ollie Clarke

Entrepreneurial spirit of Erasmus+ 

In 2015 Cornwall Council, Education Business Partnership was successful in applying for a vocational education and training mobility project ‘Aspire to Catering - Cornwall’. Cornwall Education Business Partnership set up a consortium including The Rick Stein Group of restaurants alongside Further Education providers Cornwall College and Truro & Penwith College, as their aim is to prepare learners for work, not simply for a qualification. Rachel Delourme from Cornwall Council explained: "we want them to have a passion and understanding for the industry to allow them to be very successful".

Today Ollie's own business continues to contribute to the Erasmus+ cycle, taking on Erasmus+ work placement learners from Cornwall Council. He also regularly employs apprentices and strongly believes in continuing the tradition. He said "It’s a long learning curve for them but it’s fantastic to see an apprentice finish three years, maybe stay on afterwards as a commis chef or chef de partie and to leave to go on to a good restaurant with a future in the industry.

"Taking on apprentices is difficult for the workplace because you have someone in the kitchen who’s not experienced. But it’s core to the industry – if we stop taking on apprentices then we take out the next generation of young chefs coming through.

"The Erasmus+ programme is fantastic, I think it’s hugely important that people are given the opportunity to get out there and see things. Paris isn’t even that far away, but it’s hugely different from what we do at home. At the same time it shouldn’t be treated as a holiday, it should be treated as an amazing opportunity gifted to them by the Erasmus+ programme, grasped with both hands and made the most of."

Looking towards the future

"Taking over a Parisian restaurant, a very French institution that’s been open for 25 years, as an English chef is quite daunting. We’re looking to make a good go of it, it’s a format of restaurant that we don’t really have in the UK - a true bistro. The whole idea is that you eat the same kind of food that you would be eating in a Michelin star restaurant, we just have to work harder to make it accessible. It’s good food at a price that's available to the vast majority of the population."

We are looking to continue our relationship with Rachel Delourme from Cornwall Council and Erasmus+ and continue taking on apprentices in the future. It’s the sustainability that’s important, that the cycle continues, just as with apprenticeships. 

At an organisational level, Cornwall Education Business Partnership has had its Erasmus+ participation praised in an OFSTED report for having helped staff, students, the college and the wider community. To see the great work that Cornwall Council continue to do, you can read their recent case study

Do you have an Erasmus+ success story that you'd like us to know about? Drop us a line now!