My name is Jon Watts. At 18 I was sentenced to six and a half years in a young offenders institute for knife crime offences. During my time in custody I learnt how to cook whilst taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh's award. I achieved a Gold award, and upon release I was employed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
I worked for Jamie Oliver for six years before I decided to go self-employed. I have been running my business for over four years now and I have built up a very loyal customer base. Due to my story of 'success' I was asked about three years ago to help mentor young people via Luton youth offending team. I have spent some of my time trying to help these people and have successfully got two into full time employment in local kitchens.
I feel like I am limited in how I can help, and so I am now looking to open a fun, sociable and informal cookery school in St. Albans. I plan on taking 8 young people for 6-9 months at a time and teaching them basic cookery skills. I am extremely passionate about cooking as it changed my life, so I will hope to inspire others, and maybe cooking can help them change theres too.
I will run the programme in conjunction with the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, this means that the young people will have something to show for the work they have put in. They will have changed their mentality, grown in confidence and self-esteem and have a skill to show for the effort they have put in.
At the end of the programme I aim to assist with helping them to find employment or secure college places.
The programme will also help the local community of St. Albans as we will be cooking food for the homeless.
St. Albans is a relatively safe and crime free place, Luton however has a very high youth crime rate, and in particular for knife crime. I want to show these young people the right way to use a knife. In the kitchen.
“A Home Office report unveiled by the Sunday Times found that knife crime has risen 86% in Bedfordshire since 2014, with claims of London drug gangs moving into the home counties and engaging in turf wars with local dealers.”