From pot washer to head chef: 17-year-old's remarkable rise to the top

The Crown's landlord Alie Hannam with 17-year-old Kaiya Curucu, who has just been named head chef at the Fakenham pub

The Crown's landlord Alie Hannam with 17-year-old Kaiya Curucu, who has just been named head chef at the Fakenham pub - Credit: Aaron McMillan

For most teenagers, cooking goes about as far as beans on toast or boiling the kettle for a packet of instant noodles.

But 17-year-old Kaiya Curucu is showing that teenage kicks can be found in food, with a set of culinary skills that have seen him take charge of a busy pub's kitchen before he has even turned 18. 

17-year-old Kaiya Curucu in The Crown's kitchen in Fakenham

17-year-old Kaiya Curucu in The Crown's kitchen in Fakenham - Credit: Aaron McMillan

Just three years after joining The Crown in Fakenham as a pot washer aged 15, Kaiya has already progressed to the position of head chef after impressing landlord Alie Hannam. 

His background with the pub stretches back even further as he undertook work experience there during his time at school. 

A passion for catering has seen the 17-year-old rise rapidly rise up the ranks, from assisting in the kitchen to taking full control of The Crown's menu. 

Kaiya Curucu putting the final touches on one of his dishes at The Crown in Fakenham

Kaiya Curucu putting the final touches on one of his dishes at The Crown in Fakenham - Credit: Alie Hannam

Kaiya, who lives in Fakenham, revealed he had even overcome drug problems over the past few years to turn his life around - and said he owed a lot to his boss. 

“Alie first employed me when I was going through a really rough time, he said. "I was heavy on drugs, and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Crown's landlord Alie Hannam with 17-year-old Kaiya Curucu, who has just been named head chef at the Fakenham pub

The Crown's landlord Alie Hannam with 17-year-old Kaiya Curucu, who has just been named head chef at the Fakenham pub - Credit: Aaron McMillan

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"When I was employed it moved me onto the next path. Instead of going out, I would come here in my free time and just watch how the other chefs were doing it. I was like ‘I want to do that, I want to learn and do this'.

“I’m willing to put the hours in. You have got to be focused, you can't be mucking about, and I’m happy to do that because I know the outcome if I keep pushing - we will be at the top."

Kaiya Curucu has received rave reviews for his dishes - including these fish and chips

Kaiya Curucu has received rave reviews for his dishes - including these fish and chips - Credit: Alie Hannam

From an early age, Kaiya's love for cooking has been clear for all to see. 

Catering was his favourite subject at school, and he would spend countless hours watching TV cooking shows to see how professional chefs made and presented their food.

Kaiya Curucu is hoping to secure a restaurant rosette for The Crown in Fakenham

Kaiya Curucu is hoping to secure a restaurant rosette for The Crown in Fakenham - Credit: Aaron McMillan

In gaining his qualifications via an apprenticeship, Kaiya passed with flying colours - picking up a distinction star. 

Ms Hannam, who hired Kaiya full-time in December before promoting him to head chef earlier this month, said she couldn't be happier with his progression.

“We’ve had absolutely amazing feedback about the food - we're getting five-star reviews," she said.

Kaiya Curucu working in the kitchen The Crown in Fakenham

Kaiya Curucu working in the kitchen at The Crown in Fakenham - Credit: Alie Hannam

"The restaurant has really picked up since he took the role and designed the menu, and we’re a lot busier.

“I think he should be really proud of himself. We're certainly so proud of him."