Hoxton Apprentice training restaurant goes bust amid cuts

A flagship training restaurant which saw long-term unemployed youths cooking for the Queen has been forced to close.

The home of The Hoxton Apprentice is now up for sale after the charity which ran it went into administration – amid criticism of the coalition government’s cuts to apprenticeship funding.

Founded nine years ago by top chef Prue Leith and social entrepreneur Gordon D’Silva, the Hoxton Square business shared the same vision as Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and won awards for its work helping hard to reach youngsters to become chefs, waiters and bar staff.

But the social enterprise came under the umbrella of the employment charity Training For Life which folded at the end of November. Blame is being pinned on the coalition government’s move nearly two years ago to scrap the Future Jobs Fund which gave money to costly apprenticeship schemes.

Val Corbett, the director of the Hoxton Apprentice, said: “It is no co-incidence that an estimated 6,000 charities have gone into administration since the last election. Training For Life tried to buck the trend but filling the financial gap was impossible.”

“Training For Life tried hard to buck the trend but filling the financial gap was nearly impossible,” she continued.

“We have nearly two million young people unemployed, a whole generation, I just hope those in power have an idea of what now to do.”

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An impressive 70 per cent of The Hoxton Apprentice’s 650 apprentices went on to secure prestigious placements in Buckingham Palace, Downing Street or exclusive restaurants like Nobu.

Former head chef Leon Seraphin, pictured, is one of them. He had been long-term unemployed when he began working at the restaurant eight years ago and went on to cook for the Queen at The Gherkin and to work for celebrity chef Raymond Blanc.

The 32-year-old from Woodberry Down Estate, off Woodbury Grove, said: “Training For Life has given me the best and a lot of other people too. I feel very sorry for the people caught up in this at the last minute.

“We had all kinds of people, those without direction, homeless people with issues, I hate it that the opportunity that I had isn’t there for people now.

“People I trained myself have now got a future, they are chasing their dreams, but what opportunities will there be for others? I’m gutted.”

The Hoxton Apprentice remained open until last week to honour bookings.

A Department of Work and Pensions spokesman said of its successor initiative: “The 100,000 work experience places we’re offering each year are 20 times cheaper and shown to be effective at helping young people off benefits and into work.”