Careers for unemployed on the menu as Prescott dines out again

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Indy Politics

Avoiding comments about secret liaisons with Gordon Brown at oyster bars, John Prescott continued his seemming tour of the nation's restaurants yesterday when he opened an innovative project to train long-term unemployed people for the catering trade.

The former commis chef-turned-Deputy Prime Minister was attending the launch of the Hoxton Apprentice, a restaurant housed in a converted school in Hoxton Square, east London, with a menu devised by the restaurateur Prue Leith.

But it is run by a local charity with Government, Corporation of London and private enterprise support and is intended to be the first of several around London and the rest of the country.

Each year up to 48 unemployed people will be given a training course in order to prepare them for careers in the catering industry. They will be paid the minimum wage.

Some are likely to be taken on by the Compass Group and Whitbread, the two catering companiesthat have been involved in creating the Hoxton Apprentice. Others may remain at the restaurant itself.

The Hoxton Apprentice is part of a complex built at the converted school, called the Prospect Centre, which also contains an IT suit, a gym and facilitiesfor people who want to start their own business.

Mr Prescott said the project was an important part of the process of inner city regeneration. "Skilled work is a key route out of homelessness and social exclusion. The Prospect Centre will help vulnerable people to become self sufficient."

The concept is similar to that of Jamie Oliver's restaurant Fifteen, which is located nearby and which also gave people a chance in catering, as shown in the Channel 4 television series, Jamie's Kitchen.

To compete in an area crammed with bars and restaurants, the Hoxton Apprentice has an eclectic menu of modern British, Mediterranean and Asian staples, some of which were enjoyed by Mr Prescott at a buffet lunch yesterday.

While oysters were not served, he is said to have expressed a particular preference for the Curry Dusted Fat Chips. Or chips with curry sauce, as they are better known in Hull.