Dave Meneer is the chief executive of Fifteen Cornwall, the Jamie Oliver-backed charitable restaurant, which this week celebrated its third group of graduates and released the First 1,000 Days report. He spoke to Kerstin Kühn.
Caterer What have been the biggest highlights during the first 1,000 days?
Dave Meneer The biggest highlight (even though I wasn't here then) was the opening day. We really hit the ground running with a brand new restaurant in a sensational location and have never looked back. Since then every graduation has been a highlight; seeing a class of trainees start off and come through at the other end. A lot of our trainees have been written off or been in trouble with the law, so graduation day is usually quite emotional.
Caterer Any regrets?
DM The flipside of the coin is that not everyone makes it to the end and we usually lose a few of the trainees for various reasons. Sometimes they realise that catering isn't for them and sometimes they get into trouble again. We tend to keep around two-thirds of our apprentices, and while we take on 20, usually 12 or 13 of them graduate.
Caterer What are the plans for the next 1,000 days?
DM The goal is to get more people through the apprenticeship. We'd love to take on more people but there's only so much we can handle. There is limited space in the kitchen and being situated on the cliffs, we've got nowhere to expand to. One of the things we'd like to do is launch a specialist bakery training programme as many of the trainees have expressed an interest in this. They seem to like the hours of working through the night and then going surfing early in the morning.
Caterer Is it harder to maintain a high profile now that Jamie Oliver has stepped away to run other projects?
DM We seem to be doing OK and are probably as high profile now as we've ever been. Cornwall has become very popular as a holiday destination so there has been a lot of media coverage of the area, and we have benefited from that. Jamie is incredibly busy but his heart is still very much in Fifteen. He comes down a couple of times a year, and will be at the graduation this week.
Caterer Two years ago the Cornish Liberation Army (CLA) targeted you. What's your relationship like now with locals?
DM We source 80% of what we sell at the restaurant in Cornwall and our relationship with the locals is great. We haven't heard from the CLA since the police got involved two years ago and to be honest I'm not really sure what or who the organisation is. I am a Cornish man and this sort of thing really irritates me. Most of the locals feel the same.