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Baby Boy's Burgers' Jack relished his time on College cookery course

Whether flipping a burger or filleting a fish, one of York’s most promising young chefs Jack Jenner believes his consummate culinary skills were first honed studying a Professional Cookery course at Sim Balk Lane.

Jack spent three years as a York College student before leaving with his Level 3 Diploma and insists, without that period in his life, he would not be where he is now – the proud owner of Baby Boy’s Burgers at 22!

The popular street food-style unit in SPARK - Piccadilly’s cool and vibrant dining space – has exclusively attracted five-star reviews for its delicious gourmet burgers on Tripadvisor since Jack opened for business in January.

His success, at such a young age, is even more inspiring for somebody who has contended with anxiety throughout his life and been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) and dyslexia.

Help with those conditions from College’s Learning Support Team and his course tutors also played a key role in Jack prospering during his studies and beyond.

Jack’s passion for working with food stems from a very young age when baking with his Gran was a formative part of his childhood.

The pair would make a Christmas Pudding together every year and Jack’s mum is also a trained chef, although she has never pursued a career in the industry.

Having enjoyed a food tech, catering and hospitality course as a Manor Church of England Academy pupil, though, Jack decided it was a profession he wanted to pursue and points out “the course at College seemed the right one to do and, with the support I received, confirmed it’s what I wanted to do”.

During his first year at College, he did shifts as a breakfast chef at The Fossgate and Micklegate Socials.

After the Covid-19 pandemic that interrupted his second year of studies, he then worked at SPARK for the first time for “vegan junk food” outlet Doner Summer.


“I’ve gone on to work for about 13 people here, so have become quite well known on site,” Jack added. “I’ve worked in every unit and most of them twice, if not three times, for lots of different people producing lots of different food.”

With Jack's reputation growing, one of the SPARK businesses Melk asked him to be their Head Chef at 19 after opening another café in the city centre.

As well as cooking breakfasts and brunch, the role saw Jack designing menus and dealing with costings, suppliers and inspections.

He was also given the freedom to be creative, which prepared him for a change in career direction at the age of 20 when he was asked to become sous-chef for the Michelin-trained and fellow former York College student Danny Victory at his fine-dining restaurant Izakaya on Grape Lane.

Running the kitchen alongside Danny, Jack was working on a 10-course taster menu and, again, trusted with adding his own input to it.

A chance then arose to take a directorship role with one of the traders at SPARK but, when he left the unit to go travelling, Jack inherited the unit and launched Baby Boy’s Burgers.

His journey to this point has seen Jack prove himself just as adept working in a Michelin-standard, fine-dining kitchen, as he is cooking burgers alongside his best mate Rob at SPARK and he believes he owes that versatility to his College years.

“I’ve acquired a varied range of experience, including breakfasts, fine dining and street food whether that be vegan kebabs, tacos or bagels,” he reflected. “Then, the last couple of years has been more focussed on the management side and, when I look back at College, we were regularly introduced to new cooking techniques or dishes and that has proven really helpful, particularly for fine-dining when you’re working with fish, for example, which we did a lot of at College.

“With street foods, you don’t deal with that type of ingredient too often, because it can be expensive. There are knife skills you need for fine-dining, too, that I’d done before at College, so I wasn’t needing to ask the Chef how to do it.

“Mackrell was on the menu at Izakaya and it had to be perfectly filleted but, because I’d done that before with my tutor, it felt like I was a duck to water. At College, you are given the skills to go in whatever direction you want to in the industry and I think my palette improved just by doing the course, too.”


Jack added that his time at College was key to nurturing the creative talent he can now showcase to customers.

“College was a safe environment to learn and experiment,” he explained. “We had things like Mystery Box Challenges and your creativity was never hindered or discouraged, which has benefitted me so much in my development as a chef now that I am creating my own menus.

“Whereas, if you were to start your career in a workplace, I think you’d just be peeling carrots and washing pots and, instead of starting my own business at 21, I’d have had to wait until at least 24 without the skills I acquired right from the start of my College course. Not many kitchens allow you to play around and try things out at a young age, because there are more concerns around making profit.”

That supportive environment extended to the help Jack was able to access as a dyslexic student with ADHD, who suffered from anxiety.

“I found it difficult with some teachers at my old school because I didn’t know I had ADHD and they didn’t either,” he pointed out. “I was difficult to teach at times, but my tutor Graham (Fyfe) was very understanding of the condition and the Learning Support Team were really helpful, too.

“Professional Cookery is a very practical course, but there’s a lot of theory work as well and I had been diagnosed as being dyslexic when I arrived at College and, then, later with ADHD, so I met with them a lot to access help and support with the coursework and paperwork I needed to do, as well as my anxiety. I have even more paperwork to do now, running my own business, so I rely on those skills that I developed in College.

“They are invaluable, because it’s never just about cooking, either when you’re training or in the workplace. I have family friends now who either have anxiety or are just a bit nervous about the course and I always tell them I didn’t find it the easiest, but I’d definitely do it again if I had the chance and I tell them they’ll have a great time.

“I would recommend it to anyone as a place to grow. Everyone I was on the course with has fond memories of it and of Graham and we still miss College.”

Classic s
Hands final

Jack also recalls with happiness the services he and his fellow students carried out in our Ashfields Restaurant for members of the public.

They helped forge friendships and teamwork skills that have both proven enduring and he added: “I learned so much about plating from the services. It’s not a skill you need with street food but, when I did fine dining, I had a knowledge of plating techniques and, working with (tutor) Pete (Harrison) on them in the restaurant kitchen, was amazing.

“My struggles with anxiety also meant I was a bit hesitant about making that leap into a very hard industry like hospitality but having Ashfields was really helpful in terms of giving me that initial grounding. It’s obviously a training kitchen, but it also sets out to replicate what you’d expect if you were going into a restaurant and it’s a place to build your experience and confidence.

“I still keep in contact with a lot of great people from my College class and we had a lot of team tasks on the course. The industry is all about teamwork and I rely on having a close-knit team now.”

Jack went on to stress how working in College’s industry-standard kitchen proved perfect preparation for a career outside of the building, too.

“I’m still jealous of College’s Rational Combination Ovens,” he laughed. “I can’t fit one in my kitchen now and they’re quite pricey, but the equipment we had at College sets you up for your career when you start that first job in the industry, because you’ve already had an introduction to it and you know how to use it.

“Our tutor would also run us through all the health and safety things you would need to do when operating the equipment and it’s so valuable to have had that initial training, especially with me now being responsible for people.”

Jack considers himself fortunate, too, to have found an environment at SPARK, where there is a ready number of fellow tradesmen and women willing to offer guidance and advice for somebody in the early throes of running their own business.

Jack rob unit

“I’m young, so the kitchen side of things I know, but I know less about the business side of things,” he confessed. “Here, though, I can ask the SPARK owners or other businesses on site for advice.

“One time, I did that and the person literally put down his knife, got his laptop out and showed me what I needed to do. I think it would be hard to get that same sense of community anywhere else.

“There are people who have been here for six years so, if I am having a problem with something, there’s more than likely somebody who has had that problem previously and is more than willing to give me advice on how to guide me through it. It's also a really fun site.”

The Baby Boy brand originates from his first steps into the hospitality world at 16 when there were so many people who shared his first name that he became known as Baby Jack.

He has subsequently launched an Instagram account called Baby Boy’s Kitchen and has plans to grow the company during the coming years.

“I have written three, five and 10-year plans with my business mentor, who is an entrepreneur and a family friend,” he revealed. “I want to open a few more street food sites in York and eventually beyond, before expanding the Baby Boy’s Kitchen brand into brick-and-mortar buildings, whether that’s with Baby Boys’s Tacos, Baby Boy’s Gran’s Christmas Puddings or whatever we want to do really.

“I also want to build a team of skilled individuals who I’m very close with, because I want the business to be a family with an emphasis on staff first. I don’t want people to come to work in a harsh environment.

“I want them to feel supported and have the space to develop and that desire has its roots in what I experienced myself at College.”

To learn more about our Professional Cookery course, please click here

For more details on our full hospitality and catering course provision, please consider attending our next Open Event on Wednesday 19th June from 5.30pm to 7.30pm.

You can register a place by clicking here

For a full list of upcoming themed nights at Ashfields and details of Afternoon Teas and Fish and Chip Lunches, please click here

To reserve a table, please email or phone 01904 770253.