Walking across Christ Church's Tom Quad, with the winter sun lighting up the buildings and adding a sparkle to the manicured lawns, is a delight. Such moments constantly remind me how lucky I am to work in such a beautiful city. I was there to meet up with the Steward of Christ Church, John Harris, who had arranged for me to talk to head chef Roland Depit and three talented young apprentice chefs who make up the college's 18-strong kitchen brigade.

There was a time when nearly every college kitchen employed an apprentice chef; now Christ Church is one of the remaining few which does so. The Apprenticeship Training Scheme on offer lasts a maximum of three years. The major part of the training takes place in the college kitchen where senior staff qualified as trainers and assessors provide structured practical training. The consistent quality of training is ensured through a partnership with the Hotel and Catering Training Company (HCTC). The qualification they work towards is a National Vocational Qualification, which begins at Level 2 and, subject to progress, goes on to Level 3.

Rob Eddington from Eynsham, Adam Whitehead from Abingdon and Andrew Kirby from Kidlington are the three apprentices working in the historic Christ Church kitchens at the moment. Each says that he really enjoys the job and is getting a great deal from the experience, particularly Andrew who has just finished his Level 2 and is now going on to Level 3.

The youngsters' training begins with the most basic of jobs and they graduate at their own pace from there. Putting the potatoes through the rumbling pot is usually one of their first tasks. Most kitchens buy their potatoes ready-peeled, but at Christ Church, where freshly prepared vegetables are highly prized, they rely on a very old, but faithful machine that peels the spuds as they rumble and tumble in a barrel. Before the kitchens were revamped in the mid-1950s, this job was done by hand. Now there is even an electric machine that does the slicing job, once reserved for the mandolin, when making pommes Anna or pommes Dauphinois.

The youngsters soon graduate to more demanding tasks as they work alongside experienced chefs on really complex dishes, for, as the head chef Roland Depit said, there's much to learn in his kitchen.

"Not only do we cook lunch and dinner for the students, often catering for 280 at one sitting, we also cater for conferences, banquets and special lunches, such as the lunch for the Guild of Food Writers, which is taking place during the forthcoming literary festival. This lunch is particularly demanding as it calls for dishes created by the award-winning food writer Anna Del Conte who is overseeing the event," he explained, showing me Anna's stunning new book The Painter, the Cook and the Art of Cucina, from which recipes are being taken.

As food has to travel by lift to the dining hall, certain dishes are not practical, particularly when everything is plated in advance. So, armed with Anna's book, the chefs continue to test certain dishes.

Students pay just £1.81 for a three-course dinner. Vegetarians, vegans and others with special dietary needs are catered for within this price too. While the chefs admit it is difficult to produce a meal on this budget, they always suceed. Everything from lentils to lobsters finds its way into the Christ Church kitchens. They even manage to provide free-range food and Fairtrade products and shop locally for the main ingredients. Local PYOs, such as Medley Manor Farm, Binsey, provide them with the asparagus in the spring, freshly picked strawberries too, as this is a kitchen which studiously follows the seasons. The chefs take great delight in celebrating seasonal food and teaching the apprentices to appreciate those special moments when the first rhubarb is harvested or runner beans are ready to pick.

These days Oxford students take a significant interest in supply chains, seasonality and animal welfare problems associated with battery hens and food miles. The apprentices soon learn how to address these issues. To ensure that everyone is happy, a small committee of students helps compile the menus each week. During my visit, they were checking the St Valentine's Day dinner to be served in hall later that week, featuring French onion soup and salmon with pesto.

Given the variety of foods served at Christ Church, apprentices can leave after three years confident of obtaining a job in virtually any kitchen they wish. They are certainly highly sought after because, as young Rob Eddington said, the training covers every aspect of the kitchen as well as the health and safety rules that apply when working with food. Naturally, the fact that he's working in a job he really enjoys is important too. Like his colleagues, Rob finds the Christ Church kitchen an impressive place to work. It was turned into a state-of-the-art-kitchen in 1992, enabling the chefs to incorporate the most modern food technology alongside traditional skills. (The potato rumbler mentioned earlier was saved from the tip during this refurbishment as everyone realised that despite its age, it still proved the most efficient tool for peeling fresh potatoes).

Plans for the college to take on three extra apprentices in are now in place. The college wants youngsters interested a taking up a full-time, fixed-term appointment, which will lead to a successful career in catering. If you are young, enthusiastic and would like to learn more about apprenticeships at Christ Church, look out for an advertisement coming soon in the recruitment pages of the main paper.