Apprentices thrive at top gastropub

9th February 2023

An apprentice from Stratford-upon-Avon College has thrived in his training whilst working for a local gastropub, with the business now looking to take on more apprentices.

Charlie Vale, a Commis Chef Apprentice, has flourished at The Royal Oak in Whatcote. The establishment has not only been awarded a Michelin star, but has recently been listed in the 2023 Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastro Pub Awards.

the royal oak
The Royal Oak, copyright Nanna Dís

Richard Craven, the owner and Head Chef, has worked in a wealth of top restaurants and opened The Royal Oak in 2017. Five years on, they boast a loyal following and attract clientele from far afield for their excellent food and ambience.

Prior to his apprenticeship, Charlie started working at The Royal Oak doing pot washing and then progressed onto some kitchen work at the weekends. Once he came towards the end of his GCSEs he approached Richard to discuss the opportunity to stay on as an apprentice.
Charlie has loved his experience there so far: “It’s been great! It’s so nice to work in a small team using fresh produce and being so hands-on. There have been so many new experiences – I definitely didn’t think I’d be plucking pheasants and skinning deer! But that’s why it is so good to do an apprenticeship here. We use fresh products everyday and I get to cook a huge variety of food so it’s a really well-rounded training experience.”

Charlie will be progressing onto the Chef de Partie apprenticeship which he will also do at The Royal Oak. He would recommend his experience to others: “I would 100% recommend an apprenticeship! You can study food up to degree level and still not know how to cook whereas doing an apprenticeship you have to be hands-on, and this is a great place for that. Richard is so supportive and passionate about my progression!”

Charlie (pictured left) and Richard (pictured right) on the grounds of the Royal Oak. Copyright Nanna Dís.

Richard is pleased with how the apprenticeship and college work fits in for Charlie: “Charlie gets to work with fresh ingredients in a restaurant and pub environment whilst having the structure of college. Also, we have used his college projects to help tailor our menu/create staff food which means we can be creative and Charlie gets a wide range of learning opportunities.”

The experience has gone so well that Richard is now preparing to take on other apprentices: “We are hoping to take on a Kitchen apprentice and a Front of House apprentice. We are really lucky as we have a nice senior team who have lots of experience that can teach those below.”

Moreover, he thinks its beneficial for businesses to take on apprentices: “I think the opportunity to get people in who are naturally enthusiastic rubs off on the rest of the team and it’s really positive for us and the apprentices.”

Find out more about the College’s apprenticeships: Apprenticeships