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The Penny Drops - Advanced Term Musings by Kelly Stretton

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The Penny Drops - Advanced Term Musings by Kelly Stretton

Now in week three of the Advanced term, Kelly discusses meeting your idols, cockney fishmongers and the anticipation of life after Leiths...

Hold the PRESS… I have to sneak this in at the beginning!

Guess who popped into school today? The one and only founder of our culinary journey here at Leiths… Prue Leith herself! There we were, midway through the clearing of a roasted tomato and red pepper consommé (as you do), and colours other than white and blue check walked in to the kitchen; naturally drawing our attention. 

We all went quiet, then started the quick buzz of, "Prue... it’s Prue! Is it Prue? Oh my god, it’s PRUE!" Followed by, "Quick look like you know what you’re doing!" as we vigorously whisked up a consommé crust with smiles fixed across our faces. Not necessarily a natural facial expression after seven minutes of arm deadening whisking, but we were clearly trying to show just how calm and at ease we are! 

It was such an honour to meet her as she’s an inspiration to us all at school; especially for women in our industry. Understandably, I happily obliged when she asked if she could have her picture taken with me (aka stalked her at lunch for a quick selfie).

“It’s as if I’ve learnt a new language I had no I idea I could speak. ”

So the last term is here...

And it's clicked! The penny seems to have finally dropped. It’s as if I’ve learnt a new language I had no I idea I could speak.  The basics you learn through the Foundation and Intermediate terms form the basis for all the advanced cooking I have been eager to get my hands on. From understanding the basic methods of how foods behave to discovering the science that leads to molecular gastronomy – Heston watch out! 

I can finally read Eleven Madison Park and actually comprehend it. Not only does it kind of make sense in terms of how it should all come together, my new Rain-Man-brain quickly starts totting up minutes and hours working out how long it will take to complete and what order to do it in... We prepare those sodding daily time plans for a reason!

I, ladies and gents, am turning into a bona fide chef! 

My mission over the last two months has been to expose myself to as many types of food and food establishments as possible. I realise how torturous this sounds, ha! When I first thought about leaving my old life, to follow dreams of burnt arms and cut fingers, this was the up side. I've been dreaming of this type of research.

I worked for Bubble Food UK in their kitchens and at an event in a old dock building with no roof, in the depths of the Beast from the East and saw just how a first class catering company knock it out of the park. The answer is simple: chefs with imaginations akin to Willy Wonka and an events team that could organise the military!

I have discovered Japanese food so, at the peril of my wallet, went on date night to Nobu. I don’t like raw fish, so this wasn’t the smartest choice, but fell in love with the flavours of the orange miso sauce in the black cod - a dish I was instructed by all to try - and it did not disappoint!

Every week a new restaurant and, what seems like every other day (according to my other half), a new must read cookbook arrives through the letterbox widening my imagination of new dishes to create and how to turn them all into canapés.

Have you ever heard of Billingsgate Market?  Until last week it was a place I’d heard of but had never really registered as a viable market for home shopping.  I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

As an individual buyer you don’t have much haggling power, (a shame seeing as you now know I’ve been down Brixton market and acquired new skills in this department). Haggling is for the restaurants and catering companies buying en masse, but the prices put the supermarkets to shame and the fish merchants are very knowledgeable about their products, which always helps the keen amateur! (They're also very, very cockney - to my ears they could have all been extras in Only Fools and Horses, even making our very own ‘Georgie from London’ sound like she speaks the Queen’s English.)

They say the early bird catches the worm – or fish in this case - and so it’s bright eyed and bushy tailed for my class trip, with a nice 4:30am start to get to the other side of London for 6am (the market opens at 2am and by about 7am they’re closing down). 

“What kind of chefs do we want to be?”

The main topic taking up residence in our brains this term is our PORTFOLIO! 

What kind of chefs do we want to be? A tad pre-emptive for a life decision so cue overthinking for all... but what do we really want to show prospective clients or employers?

What I have discovered is just how happy I am switching between the kitchen and the laptop, combining cooking, writing and styling all into one place where I can showcase genres of food I am interested in, the people and places around the world and the seasons that have inspired me. 

Writing a cookbook has always been on the old bucket list, even if my mum is the only one who buys it! I see another avenue of possibilities arising...

By Kelly Stretton | Instagram: kelstretton 

Kelly Stretton

Author: Kelly Stretton

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