vita whitaker

A 19-year-old Northampton College student will have the chance to cook alongside celebrity chef Raymond Blanc in his Michelin-starred restaurant having been named ‘Student Chef of the Year’.

Josie Milicevic will spend up to four weeks at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire on a work placement scheme later this year.

The teenager is the first beneficiary of the Jeff Whitaker Award. Jeff was the founder of Whitco Catering and Bakery Equipment and a leading light in Northamptonshire’s food and drink scene. The annual award is part of a programme of wider support for the county’s food and drink sector. It gives young chefs the opportunity to work in some of the country’s leading kitchens, developing their talents and preparing them for a life working in food and drink.

A total of £3,000 has been donated to the college through Jeff’s Way – a foundation designed to make a positive difference for young people by supporting three broad aims: education, opportunity and security.

Josie, who currently works at The Plough in Shutlanger, said: “It’s an incredible opportunity and I can’t wait to get started. I’ve loved food all my life and it’s all I want to do. I really enjoy working with good quality meats such as duck and steak and this is an amazing opportunity to experience life in a Michelin-starred kitchen. It’s a dream come true.”

In addition to Josie’s placement, Level 3 student Brandon Wilkinson, aged 20, will receive a year’s mentoring and guidance from the Whitco team – helping him to establish himself in the hospitality and catering industry while he completes the second year of his course at Booth Lane.

The money will also be used to enable a group of students to experience fine dining and five-star service at a leading London hotel.

Vita Whitaker, who set up the Jeff’s Way fund in memory of her husband, said: “Jeff built a career, a business and a national reputation in the catering industry. And while he enjoyed the fruits of his work, he never lost sight of his origins or missed the opportunity to help others.

“Young people are our future. Our aim is to help them to benefit from education, opportunity and security. In this way they can grow, thrive and develop into a generation of adults that make a positive difference.

“We are thrilled to have Josie and Brandon as our first winners. They represent the future of food and drink in Northamptonshire and we look forward to helping them on their journey to be the leaders, pioneers and employers of tomorrow.”

Principal of Northampton College, Pat Brennan-Barrett added: “We are incredibly grateful to Vita for her extremely generous donation through the Jeff’s Way fund. It will make a huge difference to Josie and Brandon, giving them an amazing opportunity to make their mark in what is one of Northamptonshire’s flagship industries.”

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