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Best-selling dish started with apprentice at award-winning Staffordshire restaurant

Apprentices are critical to our business, says Head Chef at multi-award-winning venue in Stone, ahead of next week’s National Apprenticeship Week.

Four apprentices now work at Aston Marina, from restaurants to events and even ground maintenance. The latest kitchen apprentices are supported by grants from the Staffordshire Means Back to Business Scheme, which is making up to £5,000 funding available for businesses to recruit and support an apprentice.

Now the new apprentices are making a huge impact on the business, bringing great ideas and culinary creativity with them.

Sixteen-year-old apprentice pastry chef Shizelle Porter is looking to follow in fellow-apprentices footsteps and get a best-selling dish on the menu.

Shizelle said: “I love working here – you get to work with great seasonal ingredients and can get really creative because of the great equipment that was bought with the grant.

“I started off as a kitchen-porter and worked hard, so they started training me in the pastry section. I’m developing some great ideas for new dishes and being from South Africa, I really want to bring some of that influence to the menu in the future.”

Carl Lavery has been Head Chef at the restaurant for three years and said: “We have a development programme here at Aston Marina for our apprentices – it’s all about honing their culinary and customer service skills to provide an excellent dining experience for our guests.

“And from a personal point of view, I love to pass down skills to the next generation - they learn with enthusiasm and bring great ideas and a real vitality with them. The grant funding really helped to support them and buy the equipment to get creative in the kitchen.”

Aston Marina has a long history of supporting apprentices, recently taking on Ali Gee as a permanent chef after his two-year apprenticeship across all the kitchen specialisms.

Carl added: “Taking on apprentices is a commitment but the grant funding helps and it’s absolutely worth it. Getting the funding to support the apprentices took weeks, not months and was really straightforward. I would definitely recommend this grant to other small businesses.”

Philip White, Staffordshire County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for economy and skills said: “Apprentices make a huge difference to businesses right across Staffordshire. They really are central to our economy and are a great way for businesses to hone the bespoke skills their business needs.

“The Staffordshire Means Back to Business apprentice grant can be used in a number of ways, including supporting the business whilst the new apprentice learns their trade.

“Now that £1m of extra investment into the economy has been agreed by the county council and we’ve been successful in securing considerable funding from the UK Community Renewal Fund, small businesses can not only get a grant of up to £5,000 per apprentice, but grants and loans for other business needs as well.”

Councillor Frances Beatty, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Planning at Stafford Borough Council said the authority had also funded more than 30 apprenticeships through their covid ‘Additional Restrictions Grants’ scheme.

Councillor Beatty said: “By joining with Staffordshire County Council we’re delighted that we can make a big impact on businesses and support great apprentices like Shizelle and Ali. I encourage any business to look into the menu of grants, loans and support available through Staffordshire Means Back to Business Scheme.”

More information about Staffordshire Means Back to Business grants are available at


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