PLANS to develop an old well house at a Winchester hotel have been drawn up in a bid to increase its trainee chefs.

Lainston House, in Sparsholt, took on 13 catering students from colleges across the county as part of its new chefs’ academy.

Executive chef, Andy MacKenzie, said the new two-year programme was originally meant for only nine trainees but he was unable to whittle the numbers down any further based on their skill set.

They were chosen from colleges from across the south, including Basingtoke, Chichester, Bournemouth and Poole, Guildford, South Downs, Brighton, Farnham and Eastleigh, through a unique selection process.

“We were looking for nine and we took 13 through an X-factor sort of process,” Mr MacKenzie said. “It’s a two-year programme, a fast-track course, taking them from commi-chef to chef departé whereas normally it would take from three to four years.

“We give them something they wouldn’t normally have anywhere else because we’re taking them to the source of the ingredients,” he added. “So, in the case of beef, they learn about breeds, how old, what they are, how they were treated, the different types of cuts, and then it was onto the butchery and dealing with the difference between fillets rump etc.”

Based on the programme’s success, which has only been going for a matter of weeks, Mr MacKenzie has plans to take on even more chefs next year by developing the well house which is currently being used as a gym.

It is thought to be at least as old as the main hotel, which dates back to the 17th century, and will house somewhere in the region of six workstations and at least 24 trainees.

By giving the chefs a more supported role within the hotel Mr MacKenzie hopes they will be less inclined to leave once their training is over, as is currently the nature of the industry, he said.

“We want to keep hold of them,” he said. “When you train them and get them just where you want they want to get their next opportunity and it’s a huge cost to the business. So we had to change our way of thinking to retrain our young chefs so this is our way of trying to keep hold of them.”

The cost of the programme, which will also see the chefs paid an annual salary of around £14,000, has been paid for by Exclusive Hotels.