Completing the circle

Apprenticeships are the best way to keep the restaurant industry growing and maintain high standards, says Dan Doherty, chef director at Duck & Waffle

My apprenticeship started with my mum. I always wanted to be a chef, but didn’t really know what the options were or the best way to go about it. I was working in a little restaurant back home in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, and I planned to stay there and keep learning and try to make my way up the ranks like most others do, with no real idea of what, if any, education I’d need.

My best friend at school, George, lived nearby. When knocking for him one day (FYI anyone under 20, this is what we used to do before everyone had iPhones and Facebook, etc. – you had to GO to someone’s house and hope they were in), his mum handed me a cutting from The Times, which had an advert for the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts Specialised Chefs Scholarship. I chucked it in my pocket and forgot about it within a few minutes (sorry Mrs Franklin!).

Some time later, when she was doing my washing, my mum found the advert in my pocket; she did some research and applied on my behalf. One morning a few weeks later, I was getting ready to play football in the summer holidays with some friends when mum revealed that the plan for the day was to drive six hours down to Bournemouth for my interview and practical assessment! Naturally I didn’t want to go, but she dragged me, kicking and screaming, to the car and off we went.

Luckily, I was accepted onto the course, which consisted of three months of intensive learning at the college in Bournemouth, and a year in the industry at a high-end restaurant (mine was 1 Lombard Street with one of my mentors, Herbert Berger). This process was repeated three times. I moved down to Bournemouth aged just 16, and by the time I was 19 I had three years of experience working in Michelin-starred kitchens under my belt – plus all my qualifications; I’d also met David Boland, who has been one of my main mentors throughout my career. A pretty good position to be in, I think.

There is no doubt that this would not have been possible any other way, and I am forever thankful for all of the guidance I have received throughout my career. It’s worth noting that the support didn’t stop at graduation. I worked for an extra year at 1 Lombard Street, before moving on to work in various restaurants in London over the next 12 years. At every stage I touched base, asked opinions and generally kept in touch with the people who have helped me to get where I am today.

Now, I’m hoping to keep this going full circle. We take apprentices from the same course, of which I’m a mentor, and a few others too, to keep the growth of the industry happening and the standards are still as high as those that were instilled in me all those years ago.

To find out more about apprenticeships at Duck & Waffle, please email

About Dan

Daniel Doherty is chef director of Duck & Waffle and is well on his way to becoming one of the most prominent chefs on London’s culinary scene.

Situated on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower at 110 Bishopsgate, Duck & Waffle is London’s highest 24/7 gourmet dining restaurant. Dan brings a rich and colourful past to the restaurant, and a rare zeal and vivacity manifested in the energy of his team and the flavours of his menu which pays homage to classic British cookery, with a playful twist; signature dishes include offerings such as foie gras crème brûlée and a spicy ox cheek doughnut.

Dan was accepted into the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts as the youngest member to date in 2014 and was named one of London’s ‘1000 most influential people of 2014’ in the Tastemaker category by the London Evening Standard. He writes columns for a number of national newspapers and magazines and his second cookbook Toast, Hash, Roast, Mash was published in 2016.

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