A 94-year-old care resident and former apprentice chef turned head chef has returned to his former workplace ahead of National Apprenticeship Week, as he took a trip down memory lane to see what’s changed, and what hasn’t.
Ernest ‘Bill’ Hill, who is a resident at one of Island Healthcare’s homes on the Isle of Wight, took a trip to visit the clubhouse of the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes – a place where he worked for 47 years, rising to head chef in the kitchens during that time having initially started as an apprentice aged 16 in 1944.
With National Apprenticeship Week taking place from the 7th to 13th February, the team at Island Healthcare were inspired to take some of their residents out to former workplaces to help generate positive memories and to allow them to reflect on their working achievements and enjoy remembering times gone by.
The Royal Yacht Squadron is a historic yacht club that’s been at the forefront of yachting as a sport since 1826 – the year of its first regatta. Bill was a chef in the clubhouse, which is housed in a former castle and forms the social hub for the RYS – and it was here that Bill visited.
Upon arrival at the clubhouse, Bill was warmly greeted by the current head chef, Paul, who, following a spot of tea and cake in the Lady’s Dining room, showed Bill around, taking him down to the kitchens and talking him through the changes since he’d left, while Bill reminisced on the things that had stayed the same.
When Bill was heading up the kitchen team, they had two chefs and a part time kitchen porter, with two more joining during the peak time of Cowes Week. Now though, there are four full time chefs during the winter months, which rises to 22 kitchen staff during the height of summer – something that underlines the rise in demand for the venue’s services.
During the tour, Bill was taken aback by how high-tech the place had become and didn’t recognise any of the latest equipment – something that shows how professional kitchens have progressed over the years.
But the visit certainly brought back memories, and Bill recalled some of the high-profile guests he’d interacted with over the years, including Prince Phillip, saying: “Prince Phillip used to come down to the kitchen – he always came on a Thursday during Cowes week! Lord Mountbatten always bought his friend David with him and always had a police officer on his motorbike outside. The police officer once stopped me and charged me £30 for speeding – so I said to him, don’t you expect any more breakfast from me!”
After an enjoyable afternoon of fond recollections and sentimentality, Bill said: “It was brilliant to go back – but the place has changed so much! It’s great to know that it’s thriving though and that my hard work over the years hasn’t gone to waste.”
Commenting on Bill’s visit, Ian Bennett, the Managing Director of Island Healthcare, who accompanied him on the tour, said: “It was wonderful seeing Bill back in his old stomping ground. Although much of the kitchen equipment had changed, he still knew his way around and it was great to see it sparking so many happy memories. Having put so many years of hard work into the place, he was delighted to see that it’s gone from strength to strength.”