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Stafford College apprentice has been cooking up a storm

Commis Chef apprentice, Niamh Newby, put her skills to the test during a recent placement at Staffordshire’s only Michelin-Starred restaurant.

Passionate Niamh approached Upstairs, a Lichfield-based restaurant owned and ran by Great British Menu winner Tom Shepherd, to see if she could secure some work experience during the summer holidays.

The Level 2 student is currently studying her apprenticeship at Stafford College, but during her summer break, Niamh approached the renowned restaurateur on Instagram and was thrilled when she was invited to come in on a two-day placement.

“I couldn’t believe it when I got the reply from Tom,” said Niamh, “I had been a fan since watching him on the Great British Menu so to be able to work alongside him was an amazing experience.”

Tom, who opened Upstairs in 2021, was awarded a Michelin Star by the Michelin Guide UK & Ireland, after trading for only four months. Earlier this year, the acclaimed chef also represented the Central Region on the BBC’s Great British Menu, winning the main course round with his infamous take on Desperate Dan’s Cow Pie.

“Tom and his team were really welcoming,” continued Niamh, “I reached out as I always wanted to see how a Michelin starred kitchen is ran and to see the prep involved.

“I really valued my experience as I’ve come away with a better understanding and increased my knowledge of pastry. I worked on prep and service for that section but observed the main restaurant service too.

“It was high pressure but I really enjoy the atmosphere in the kitchen, it gives you a real a buzz of excitement.”

Trained by culinary legends Sat Bains and Michael Wignall, Tom Shepherd, is hugely supportive of the nurturing up and coming talent. He said: “Niamh was absolutely fantastic and we would welcome her back with open arms.”


When she’s not seeking out extra-curricular development experiences, dedicated Niamh works at the award-winning Aston Marina in Stone.

“I absolutely love my placement at Aston Marina,” said Niamh. “There is usually an equal amount of both preparation tasks and service on all sections but my favourite is probably pastry or larder.

“Aston Marina were really supportive about my work experience at Upstairs too. I definitely feel the experience has helped me grown in confidence and my skills have improved too.”

Assessor in Hospitality and Catering, Karen Pointon, added: “We are really proud of Niamh for seeking out this incredible experience of her own application. It shows what a dedicated student she is and this has been further evidenced with Niamh having been awarded Student of the Month in December 2022.

“Niamh is now ready to take her apprenticeship exams which we are confident she will excel in and we are sure a very successful career in the food industry awaits.”

Hungry for a career in Hospitality & Catering, find out more about the range of courses and pathways available here.