12th May 2012 10:09am | By Rebecca Kent
Make a living out of one of life’s greatest pleasures with a trade that’s simply gastronomical. Three people in the food industry chat about their careers.
Food is a business with fairly low barriers to entry, but a potentially fair reward for hard work – just look at Jamie Oliver, who has done alright for himself. Nigella’s got quite the following, too. If you are creative, clever and enthusiastic, this could be the industry that opens doors and provides the recipe to your success.
It could be a dream job
“Food is a part of everybody’s life and for people who really enjoy it, working in the industry becomes an ahchievable fantasy,” says Jenny Stringer, deputy managing director of Leiths cookery school.
There are many ways you can make the culinary world your (pan-fried) oyster, says Stringer, who sees some 100 graduates leave Leiths with a diploma in food and wine every year.
“A third of our students might go into restaurants because being a chef is a passion, others want to set themselves up as freelance caterers or chefs, doing the rounds at canapé and dinner parties. But there’s also the option to go into recipe testing for books or magazines, or join temping agencies for corporate dining,” she adds.
Additionally, you can try food writing, food styling, working as a private chef in exotic locations, or developing products for supermarkets.
Leiths alumnus lan Rosenthal went on to develop the one-pot meal company Stewed!, and his fellow graduate Jane Hornby now has several successful cookery books to her name.
Many foodies harbour an ambition to open their own establishment. Marc Dalla-Riva achieved this six months ago, when, at 25, he opened The Blacksmiths And The Toffeemaker in Islington, with a friend. “I just couldn’t get excited about working in an office. I love drinking, I love eating, and that’s the basis for working in this industry,” he says.
Dalla-Riva considers his pub a purveyor of artisan gin and whiskey, with top-notch British fare. Having already worked as a chef in fine-dining restaurants, he put himself through a spirits course, then investment from his father helped his dream to transpire.
“Having basic organisation in the kitchen is invaluable, including all the boring stuff, like stock control and chef management. But also you can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty,” he says.
Dalla-Riva also advises following industry trends.“To be successful you’ve got to look at what your peers are doing,” he says. “I don’t see them as competitors, but as inspiration.”
Brew time as a barista
Andrew Tolley, 34, co-founder of Taylor St Baristas, studied environmental science before he poured his passion into caffeine.
“I really enjoyed drinking coffee, made it badly when I had a restaurant job in Sydney, but eventually grew more curious and it developed into an obsession,” he says.
The baristas in Tolley’s cafe are trained based on the philosophy that, like a chef, their knowledge, skills and techniques critically affect the quality of the product.
Barista schools such as Prufrock and the London School of Coffee can offer qualifications, but Tolley notes one extremely important criteria for those entering the industry. “You’ve got to love coffee and you’ve got to love drinking it, in all its forms, plus spend a lot of time in cafes and ask the barista about their coffee philosophy,” he says.
A barista can earn between £6.50-£10.
For more information on training, also see londonschoolofcoffee.com.
It’s possible to work in the food industry based on experience alone. However, the technical skills offered at a learning institution will put you ahead.Either way, you can look forward to salaries between £16,000 for a demi chef de partie and £100,000 as an executive chef.
See the Leiths website, plus corecruitment.com, and bluesagency.co.uk for jobs.
Le Cordon Bleu: Master classic French techniques of cuisine and patisserie in its Le Grand Diplome. From £5365
City Of Westminster College: The institution runs a food hygeine course for two days, after which you get a Level 2 Certificate in Food Safety, perfect if you’re going into catering. £99
The National Bakery School: Based at Southbank University, this school prepares budding bakers for their trade.
Leiths: The Basic Certificate in Food And Wine here can open doors. £6990