Prince’s Trust ‘Get Into Cooking’ programme changing lives

Michael was homeless and unemployed, and turned to drugs and alcohol to cope but through the Prince’s Trust ‘Get Into Cooking‘ programme, he has turned his life around and is working as a chef and was recently awarded a Samsung Young Achiever of the Year Award.

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Michael, 26, from Devon, is profoundly deaf in one ear and fell behind at school when bullies taunted him for wearing a hearing aid. Barely able to hear in class but desperate to fit in, Mike started to mix with a bad crowd and dropped out of school aged 14.

For a time he worked at his parents’ newsagents, but began drinking and using drugs with his peers. His behaviour became erratic and violent, and Mike ended up homeless and frequently in trouble with the police. He tried to turn things around after receiving a conviction for breaking a window and managed to get work at a bookmaker’s, but he gambled his wages away and turned to drink and drugs to help him cope.

He says: “My addictions cost me my job. I ended up homeless again and remember lying in a shop doorway feeling totally invisible. When I think of it I had five big problems: no home, no job, alcohol, drugs and gambling addictions. I had dug myself a very deep hole and it took months for me to stand up and say ‘no, something has to change here’.”
Mike sought medical support and started attending Jobcentre Plus. It was there that he was invited to apply for a place on Get into Cooking – a Prince’s Trust programme, delivered in partnership with Ashburton Cookery School, aimed at giving unemployed young people the skills they need to work in catering.

Mike says: “At the time I didn’t think I’d get much out of the course, but it looked like fun. When I was selected it made me think I could do anything I could put my mind to, so I put all my energy into it. Going on the course was a real eye opener – I watched Phil Oram prepare some amazing dishes and then we had to create them ourselves. I think Phil saw some potential in me and it spurred me on and helped bring out my passion for food.”

When the programme ended, Mike threw himself into finding work and secured an interview at the Highwayman’s Haunt. Using a Prince’s Trust Development Award, he bought his own chef whites and a set of knives, presented himself well at the interview and got the job. His enthusiasm and talent impressed his bosses and he quickly climbed the ranks. He is now third chef and feeling on top of the world.

He says: “I always seemed to be going round in circles until I joined Get into Cooking. Now my parents are proud of me and my whole life has changed.  I’m really happy and have a massive amount of respect for the Prince’s Trust and everyone else who believed in me.”

One day, Mike hopes to open his own restaurant.

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