I’ve actually always wanted to be a chef. When I was in boarding school they used to offer “Food Tech” classes, and so when I got to A-Levels, I had a big decision to make. Do I want to do Food Tech or do I want to be a lawyer? Naturally, it became a huge conversation in the family. I was asked “what are you going to do with Food Tech?”
Umm, become a chef. Obviously.
And they were like that’s not really a profession. I was like okay, let’s go out to be a lawyer. I actually applied to the University of Kent to do Law and I realised it wasn’t for me halfway through so I ended up switching courses to American Studies just to go to uni. After that, I got into the workforce and hated the whole 9-5. I decided to leave it and go to culinary school. It was huge decision because I was leaving a comfortable job to pursue something I had no clue about. If not for the support of the people around me, I don’t think I’d have made it to the other side.
I applied to the Le Cordon Bleu (London) and started in January 2014. Before then, I romanticised what it meant to be a chef. Based on reading books, going food festivals, and watching TV shows - everything I thought I knew about being a chef was wrong. No one tells you that you have to be on your feet 12 hours a day or you have to pull long hours. You also have to more or less sacrifice your social life if this is the dream you want to pursue.
Your first job...
The first job I ever got was a week after I graduated from culinary school, I worked at CUT at 45 Park Lane.
As much as they teach you about these things [in culinary school], reality slaps you in the face HARD. I used to wake up at 3am for a 5am shift. I’d do breakfast, do lunch, go home to sleep and be back at it the next day.
I was like, “wow, this is what people actually go through?”. We sit in restaurants and think, “oh, this food is lovely, this service is great”, but we don’t know the grind that truly goes on. It gave me more appreciation for things that go on in the kitchen. For example, back in the day, I probably wouldn’t have paid service charge. My service wasn’t great so why should I pay for it? Then I got to understand the difference between service charge, VAT, and taxes. I started asking questions.
Is this going to the whole kitchen?
Is it going to my server?
Who am I tipping exactly?
If what I’m tipping is going to the whole kitchen, I will always gladly pay for it. Just because you have a bad experience with waiter doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve had a bad experience with the food. I’m not sure you understand what I mean.