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Words by Connor Blades

I have spent the majority of my career within the Adam Handling Restaurant Group, joining back in 2015 as a college student when I first moved to London. I worked for Adam part-time whilst studying, and loved it so much that I decided to leave college to join his apprenticeship programme to become a qualified chef. I was part of the team that launched Adam’s first independent restaurant, The Frog E1, and stayed there for over a year before leaving to gain experience at other restaurants, both in London and abroad. In December 2020, I was invited to re-join the Group and assisted in launching Ugly Butterfly in St Ives in summer 2021. In the same year, I was fortunate to be named ‘UK Young Chef of the Year’ in the prestigious Young Chef Young Waiter Competition and listed in CODE’s 30 under 30 Class of 22/23. Without Adam’s belief in me, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

The Group now runs a Rising Stars programme in Cornwall, in conjunction with Truro and Penwith College. In a bid to give back to the Duchy’s hospitality industry, aspiring young chefs and front of house staff aged between 16 and 18 are given the chance to experience two days working at the Ugly Butterfly as part of their higher education course. Each week, selected students will work with us for two days. Aspiring chefs join myself and my chef colleagues in the kitchen, while front of house staff are given the same training we give to our own employees. Our kitchen-based students will start on the cold section, learning basic prep and helping with the lunch service. The experience of being in a full working kitchen is invaluable to these young students, as is learning how to work alongside professional chefs, some of whom can be twice their age! On the second day, students will move to the hot side, working on sauces and garnishes and experiencing the preparation of meat and fish and how we process our fresh ingredients.

We use quite a lot of luxury ingredients at the Ugly Butterfly, and being so close to the coast that includes plenty of seafood. The students get to work with scallops, lobster and brill for example, fish that they may otherwise not get to work with, while at the same time experiencing some of our unique preparation methods. The students are taught to respect the ingredients and, in a world where climate change is so important, we teach them to keep it local, thus reducing air miles and our carbon footprint.

Photo credit: John Hersey


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