Leeds man in TV restaurant career move

Aged just 14 Ashley Flay walked out of school with no qualifications ... and no hope.

Months later after causing mayhem in Leeds he failed to turn up at court and was given a five year anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) in his absence.

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By his own admission Ashley, now 21, from Halton Moor, was at a crossroads and in danger of following his father Martin into a life of crime.

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But while many of the yobs he hung around with in East End Park carried on in a downward spiral, Ashley chose a different path.

Now he is one of eight young people trying to make it in the world of front-of-house restaurant staff as a contestant in Michel Roux Jnr's eight part series Service on BBC2.

Audiences have already seen Ashley and seven other contestants eat at a Michelin star eaterie in London before learning the hard way about a career in the service industry.

Two winners will be picked for life-changing scholarships with placements at leading hotels and restaurants.

It is a far cry from the mean streets of his home city and Ashley's misspent youth.

He told the YEP: "I went to Copperfield's College in Cross Green, I think it's been knocked down now. But I wasn't interested in school.

"I was more interested in getting out on the streets, getting drunk and causing trouble. There was a lot of trouble around, in fact it was reported in the YEP when we all got our Asbos.

"I had to go to court but didn't turn up. My Asbo meant I couldn't be in East End Park and I wasn't allowed to associate with certain people or be in certain situations like in a stolen car.

"A lot of the lads who stayed on the Asbos ended up getting into worse trouble and going to jail.

"But when I saw my mum, Paula, cry after I got the Asbo I thought I'm not putting her through this again.

"It made me think about myself."

Ashley, who has six sisters and three brothers, picked himself up and at 16 landed a job working for a the Halifax in its call centre near Bridgewater Place.

He said: "I didn't have to tell the Halifax about the Asbo but I did just to start off on the right foot.

"Two years into the Asbo the courts called me back to withdraw it as I hadn't broken any of the conditions."

But after two and half years of success and rising to team leader, Ashley, who is single, moved to Liverpool to be with one of his

sisters, Katy, 25, to pursue a better job.

Unfortunately, according to Ashley, a mix-up with his notice not being received in the post by HR meant he was recorded as being dismissed and he found himself on the dole.

It was then he decided to follow his passion for food.

After returning to Leeds he enrolled on a chef's course. He also replied to an advert in a TV guide for the BBC2 show and after two auditions in London was put through for filming last May.

Last week, in the first episode Michel Roux Jnr took the eight apprentice to the Park Lane Hilton's restaurant to show them what 'fine dining' service was all about.

Ashley said: "They wouldn't let me in the Hilton in Leeds when I was 16, so it was quite surreal.

"When I first started (the show) I was lost, I didn't know any of the people and in the first couple of episodes I went a bit into myself.

"It isn't the best paid industry but, as people will see in the series, the places we go and the people we see are amazing."

"My family say they can't explain how proud they are."

* Follow Ashley's progress over the next fortnight in Michel Roux's Service on BBC2 on Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8pm.