Former LVS Hassocks learner Liam Pope is celebrating after recently becoming a qualified chef.
Liam spent three years at the specialist school for young people with Autism, which played a huge role in helping him develop the career opportunity that he has taken with great enthusiasm.
Liam, 19, recently received his NVQ Level 2 in Professional Cookery having served his apprenticeship working for Sodexho in the kitchen at an Ascot school.
However his interest in, and knowledge of, cooking came about during his time at LVS Hassocks for which key outcomes include preparing learners for life beyond the school via careers and independent living.
Liam said: “When I arrived at LVS Hassocks five years ago I could only make a pot noodle. But the school encouraged me to become more independent and cook my own lunches and it gave me confidence that I could do it”.
The funding for the NVQ came from members of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR).
Liam’s interest in cooking flourished after celebrity chef Paul Rankin attended the official opening of LVS Hassocks in 2011 and gave a cookery masterclass which Liam took part in.
“I found that really interesting,” Liam said, “it inspired me and made me want to try creating new things”.
Keen to nurture Liam’s obvious talent for cooking, The Wiremill pub in North Lingfield, part of the Yummy Pub Co, gave Liam a work experience placement. The placement was arranged for three months, but such was Liam’s impact at the pub that he was asked to stay part of the team for more than double that time.
From arriving at LVS Hassocks as a 14 year old autistic learner with no cooking skills, Liam left at 17 with a planned career path thanks to hands-on experience and an NVQ Level 1 qualification in Food Preparation and Cooking.
Sarah Sherwood, Director of SEN at LVS Hassocks, said: “Once Liam started his NVQ his whole focus was on becoming a chef. We emphasised the importance of his academic learning alongside this, which led to him also gaining his GCSE Maths and English equivalence qualifications.
“ These ensured he met the requirements for further NVQ study, and he also left with a Sports Leadership award too”.
Moving back to his family home in Bracknell, Liam took on a job as apprentice chef at a school in Ascot whilst studying for his NVQ Level 2 award, and fitted in perfectly in the role.
Head Chef at the school, Lea Eastman-Thompson praised Liam, saying: “Liam has been with us for two years and is as much a part of the team as anyone else here. He fits in perfectly and is very likeable.
“I could see when he arrived he had a keen interest – he was here because he really wanted to be – and he is always willing to help out. We are all delighted he is now a qualified chef”.
Liam can now remove the word ‘apprentice’ from his job title, and already has his sights set on more success. He will compete in the Young Chef of the Year Competition in October at a national event hosted by Sodexo and is then targeting his NVQ Level 3 qualification.
Head of Centre at LVS Hassocks Kira Brabenec said: “We follow Liam’s career closely and are delighted he has gone on to become a qualified chef. It is really pleasing to know that the school was able to help Liam shape a bright future with a good job and excellent prospects from him arriving as a learner five years ago without an idea of what he wanted to do.
!His progression will inspire current learners at the school and reinforces that LVS Hassocks helps learners develop career paths and independent lives”.
Liam’s message to learners at LVS Hassocks is simple: “Whether you want to do something academic or practical, find something you enjoy and the school will help you achieve in it”.
Report and pictures contributed by LVS Hassocks.