A couple of weeks ago I attended a Music & Food festival, and I went to a couple of demonstrations by TV chefs – one a mega-star of the industry, one an-up-&-coming personality with a couple of shows & books on her CV.
Both of them told stories about how they developed their culinary skills – the mega-star recalling how, at 17 he identified the chef he wanted to learn from & then did whatever he could to get hired in that kitchen – which was mainly the after-service cleaning, but got him into his mentor’s sphere of influence. The Up-&-comer had a slightly different story – earlier this year she heard about a restaurant in the Nordics that was rapidly gaining a big reputation. She wanted to learn from that too, so she hid the fact that she was a fledgling TV star in order to secure a 2 month stint as their most junior cook – mainly veg prepping as it turned out, which gave her the opportunity to learn by doing.
This spirit of making things happen doesn’t just work in Food, it happens in all industries – I’ve been working with a Philosophy student/graduate for the last 6 months who has, in that time gone from finance-keen-but-clueless to having a good grasp of the industry, its jargon, and the beginnings of an excellent network of contacts, all through putting time into research, self-study and getting out there & introducing himself to people.
At this time of year it’s easy to get swayed by all the adverts for big graduate programmes and thinking that dutifully following industrial processes is the only option, but usually there’s actually nothing better than making it happen for yourself.