In December 2019, Fifteen Cornwall shut its doors for the last time, closing out almost 14 years of exceptional hospitality and support for young people.
Fifteen Cornwall’s story began in 2002 when Jamie Oliver launched Fifteen in London and filled the kitchen with unqualified young people in need of a second chance. Nobody believed it was possible, but Jamie held the firm belief that you can teach anyone to cook and it has the power to help people change their lives in the process.
Watching the story play out on TV, local councillor Betty Hale decided young people in Cornwall needed the same opportunities and set about trying to make it happen. Following sustained effort, Betty managed to get in touch with Jamie Oliver’s team and finally the collaboration was agreed and the site at Watergate Bay was settled upon for a location.
Cornwall made an unbeatable second location for Fifteen with its locally grown produce and world class tourism while Watergate Bay provided exceptional views to match. Restaurants and apprentice programmes soon followed in Melbourne and Amsterdam.
Fifteen Cornwall opened its doors in May 2006 with 15 young people recruited onto the training programme through a rigorous application and assessment process supported by RAF St Mawgan. The first cohort of trainee chefs graduated the following year with Jamie Oliver celebrating each one and handing them the stamped dog tags, synonymous with all Fifteen graduates.
In 2019, Fifteen Cornwall was starting the process of recruiting its fifteenth cohort of trainees, having recruited over 200 trainees in the past almost 14 years, 130 of whom came out the other side and into jobs.
The Fifteen promise to give people a second chance and to take on trainees who wouldn’t be given other opportunities meant many of the recruits were people who had the odds stacked against them. Getting even two thirds of all recruits through the whole 15 month programme was considered a huge success. There was a necessary toughness at the heart of the brand, but as a result there was also a credibility and graduate chefs from Fifteen and Fifteen Cornwall are in top kitchens worldwide.
In 2019 Fifteen Cornwall celebrated its one millionth customer, at its peak serving 80,000 guests a year and generating £200,000 in profits for the charity. With so many people through the door, supply needs were high and the restaurant pumped millions into Cornwall’s economy buying predominantly Cornish produce year round.
Many of the wider team at Fifteen Cornwall had been part of the story since the beginning. Fifteen Cornwall was much more than a restaurant, with its chef training programme at the heart of the organisation, everybody was a part of the bigger journey of helping people change their lives.