Chef Danni Barry Explains New Training Initiative With Compass Ireland

By Emily Hourican
Chef Danni Barry Explains New Training Initiative With Compass Ireland

With great chefs currently in short supply, the hospitality sector really needs specialist education and training courses to support its staffing needs, making an initiative with Michelin-starred chef Danni Barry and Compass Ireland all the more vital.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2022 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in July of 2022.

Danni Barry was only the second female Irish chef to hold a Michelin star, and in 2016 she was named Chef of the Year at the Irish Restaurant Awards. Barry was the head chef at Epic restaurant and also worked as the executive chef in Balloo House, in Northern Ireland, and at the Wicklow Escape in Donard.

Now she has teamed up with Compass Ireland – one of the country’s largest foodservice and corporate restaurant operators – to offer a unique career training and development programme.

The new apprenticeship scheme is part of Compass Ireland’s goal of continuous professional development for its staff members. It is open to any and all of the company’s 1,500 employees in Ireland who are interested in qualifying as chefs. Barry herself will present practical workshops and advisory sessions for course participants.


Together with the City of Dublin Education and Training Board, Barry and Compass will deliver a commis chef apprenticeship programme for employees at Crumlin College, in Dublin. Regional apprenticeship programmes are scheduled to take place later this year, in Galway, Limerick, Cork and Northern Ireland.

Tell us about this programme.

The Compass Apprentice Chef programme is a two-year programme open to any of the 1,500 employees in Compass who are interested in a career in catering. It involves an initial full-time induction for four weeks. This is followed by a training commitment of two days per week, where the chefs are released from work to complete the programme. It includes a mix of classroom-based skills and some experience days, such as visiting producers. On completion of the apprenticeship programme, participants achieve a QQ1 Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Culinary Arts, with the opportunity to progress to a chef de partie apprenticeship, at QQ1 Level 7.

Why is the programme important now?

There is a significant shortage of chefs in the Irish hospitality sector. I partnered with Compass to work with them to deliver specialist education and training courses to support staffing needs.

It’s a unique career training and development programme for staff, which I think will encourage people into our industry to become chefs. A real strength of the programme is the flexibility of being able to earn while you learn and the focus on long-term career progression.

Is there anything else like it out there at the moment?

I don’t think there is anything like this out there at the moment. I would have loved if this had been around while I was training as a chef! How involved have you been with designing the programme?


My role as an ambassador for the career development scheme means I will present practical workshops and advisory sessions for course participants. I have worked closely with Shay Kendrick, the culinary director at Compass, and some of the Compass suppliers to build this programme. My focus has been to develop the core themes of all the workshops – such as food waste, sustainability, the future of food, teamwork – and to celebrate Irish produce, and to bring these to life over a series of hands-on workshops.

Chef Danni Barry.

How much is your involvement influenced by your own career in kitchens? My own experience as a commis right up to a senior chef has definitely influenced my reason for being involved with this programme. I really believe in apprenticeships as a way of gaining the necessary practical experience in the industry, as well as achieving formal qualifications.

What will those who graduate from the programme bring to the workforce?

My hope is that the programme will allow them a space to be creative and inspire them to take back what they learn to their own places of work. I also think the experience from the programme will help in building their confidence and ensure they are ready for the next stage of their culinary career.

Why have you decided to be involved with this?

I’m delighted to come on board as ambassador for Compass Ireland’s commis chef apprenticeship programme. It’s great to be involved, as it will help encourage people into our sector, develop talent, and, hopefully – being a female myself – it will encourage more female participation in culinary roles. It is a real privilege to be able to be an influential part of the chefs’ journeys at this early stage in their careers.

What do you see as the greatest challenge within the industry right now?

The hospitality industry is facing a lot of challenges, currently, in this post-Brexit, post-Covid world. Costs are increasing all the time, and we still have a huge staff shortage.


Do you think hospitality has changed since Covid?

Hospitality has definitely changed since Covid. We have seen just how vulnerable it can be, and that’s why I feel it’s important to encourage people back into it. We need to invest with training and skills and show those who want to work in the hospitality business that there is a long-term, diverse career path available within the industry. What we’ve also seen is just how important an industry it is, and how resilient people working in hospitality are, so I still feel there is a lot to be optimistic about. Tell us about your own career at the moment.

What do you hope will come of this programme and the partnership with Compass? Any other plans to tell us about over the next six to 12 months?

Covid has given me the opportunity to step back and look at what is next for my own career path. I am really enjoying the mentoring role that I have with Compass, as well as the flexibility to work on other projects. I’m also looking forward to Taste of Dublin, where I will host the VIP Garden alongside Compass Ireland, who are sponsoring this experience. The focus for me is to curate local, fresh seasonal tastes with an innovative twist, and I’m spoilt for choice! I’m looking forward to welcoming everyone to Compass Ireland’s VIP Garden to celebrate the delightful foodie event of the summer.

Read More: Hospitality Ireland Summer 2022: Read The Latest Issue Online!