National Apprenticeship Week: Niamh Ireland


During National Apprenticeship Week in February, we spoke to our two apprentices about their experiences at Pembroke so far. Niamh Ireland, our Apprentice Chef, shares what life is like in the Pembroke kitchens, the exciting opportunities she has as a junior chef, and her hopes for the future.

Niamh has been with us at Pembroke since August last year, but her interest in food and cooking began at a young age. She recalls that “since I was little my dad has always been into cooking, and my granddad was a butcher. I always used to go out to eat with my dad, trying different restaurants and food together.”

Niamh works in the kitchens with a team of about 11. Asked about day-to-day life at Pembroke, she explains that the mornings involve lots of time in the prep kitchen getting ready for the day; preparing vegetables, the salad bar, soups and meats, and then marinating food for lunch and creating sauces before it’s time to get everything in the oven. “No two days are the same,” she says, with different menus every day created by the Head Chef, and two shifts meaning prep work always looks a bit different.

Throughout the week, Niamh spends lots of time practising with the Head and Deputy Head Chef, Chris and Andy, learning about flavours and techniques. At the moment she’s preparing to take part in the Oxford Junior Chef of the Year Competition, for which she’ll be required to produce a selection of cold canapés. She shares: “I have a rough menu but I haven’t quite decided yet. There are set ingredients you have to use, and the Chef and Deputy Head Chef have been helping me to try out different combinations, buying ingredients and helping me put things together.” The competition will take place on 4th April at the City of Oxford College, where Niamh’s final canapés will be judged by a panel of experts. The winners will be invited to produce their canapés for up to 200 guests at the City of Oxford Guild of Chefs Dinner hosted at Keble College, Oxford.

Alongside her practical training at Pembroke, Niamh is enrolled on an online college course and attends various other training days. In January, joined by Deputy Head Chef Andy, she went on a course to learn about meat and fish preparation. This also allowed her to meet other apprentices doing similar work, including one from St Anne’s College.

Asked about the Catering Team at Pembroke, she says: “Everybody in the team is so helpful and supportive and they all go out of their way to teach and train me; I work with everyone!” Niamh hopes to use the skills she’s learning to continue moving up in the kitchen here and to stay working in Oxford colleges.

We wish Niamh all the best in the upcoming competition, and in the rest of her training with the kitchen team here at Pembroke.

National Apprenticeship Week celebrates the achievements of our apprentices, highlighting the positive impact they make to individuals, businesses and the wider economy. Pembroke is proud to be a place where we can provide our apprentices with 'Skills for Life', which was the theme of this year's celebration! Read what our Library Management and Archive Apprentice, Brooke Cunningham, had to say here.

Headshot of Niamh Ireland