Career Change: Enjoying the fruits of your labour

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Career Change: Enjoying the fruits of your labour

​“There is never really an ideal time for change but I had a niggling feeling that, if I didn’t take the leap, I could spend the rest of my life thinking about food and wondering ‘what if?’”

Chris Rowley decided to leave the world of financial marketing to start the three term Diploma at Leiths School of Food and Wine in September 2014. Less than two years on, having graduated with distinction, he finds himself on the brink of an exciting new project: the launch of his own food business, Ballintaggart Farm.

It’s seemingly easy to tie Chris’ experience up in a neat little bow, making the transition appear effortless; but that really isn’t the reality of a career change – especially when moving into the food industry. It is an undeniably big decision that requires careful consideration and planning for most people. Chris talks us through the apprehensions he faced when considering the change.

“I’m a real worrier. Mainly, in this case, I worried about moving to a new, unknown place with my family and away from parents and friends, committing time and money to learning something new, and leaving the relative security and indulgences of a regular salary in order to return to studying. I also knew I was, in many ways, going to have to work harder in my new career. The Leiths Diploma opens up lots of job opportunities with reasonable hours, but I wanted to be a chef, so I knew I could be in for some long shifts!

“To be honest, the decision to leave my job in finance wasn’t easy. While I had always dreamt of a career in food and being self-employed, I found it difficult to imagine the reality of such a change in direction. However the economic downturn and frequent travelling with work, which meant leaving my wife and two young children at home, helped to focus my mind.

“Once I decided on Leiths and a move to London, it was actually a huge relief.”

Leiths graduates have gone on to become chefs in the country's finest restaurants, leaders of the London food scene, celebrated TV chefs, editors and stylists at top food publications or successful food entrepreneurs. Studying at the school not only equipped Chris with professional skills to last a lifetime, he also experienced the benefit of being part of the Leiths community.

“My time at the school was genuinely brilliant. I am very lucky to have completed the Diploma and feel very much part of the Leiths family now.

“The training is intense and wide-reaching, the staff and guest teachers outstanding and I loved being with a group of like-minded food lovers who shared my thinking, learning and talking about food constantly.

“The hours and the work were tiring and it was a big test but, ultimately, I emerged content and certain that a career in food was what I wanted.”

There’s no better resource when deciding whether to retrain than hearing from someone who’s been through the process themselves. For anyone who’s teetering on the fence, Chris offers some valuable advice.

“Take your time making the decision and get as much relevant experience as you can
before you sign up. Visit Leiths; ask a lot of questions to find out more and see if you can envisage yourself there.”

Once the training is complete, a whole new world of opportunities opens up to graduates as they consider the first steps into their food-filled futures. Chris has been able to fulfil lifelong ambitions as well as discovering unexpected avenues.

“During Leiths and after, I have focused on getting as many and as varied experiences as possible. There are loads of options beyond restaurants too! I’ve worked as a teacher, in food styling, as a home economist, as a supper club host and as a private chef – all requiring different skills and resulting in different rewards.

“In some ways, a career in food is better than I imagined. When I started, I never thought I would enjoy teaching and sharing my skills with others as much as I do but, now, it’s firmly part of my future plans and one of the most enjoyable aspects of my new path.”

Now, as he opens his own kitchen, Ballintaggart Farm, Chris will have the rewarding
experience of training his own staff. As he considers the future, Chris says he is reaping the benefits of his decision.

“I feel hugely inspired on the brink of launching a new rural food business. There is a huge amount of potential for our new venture. I’m mostly looking forward to being back on Scottish soil, getting reacquainted with the incredible Scottish larder, welcoming a new baby to our family and starting something I’m already very proud of.

“If a career in food is something you keep coming back to, I believe it is worth saving and borrowing the money to commit to the Diploma. You can do some work simultaneously and you will certainly be grateful for the experience and the meals! If you want to springboard to a new career, Leiths will give you the skills, confidence and the network you need; the rest is up to you.”

Lily Grouse

Author: Lily Grouse

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