Exploring the Options by Kelly Stretton

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Exploring the Options by Kelly Stretton

With the Intermediate Term well under way, Diploma Student Kelly talks about new hobbies, new opportunities and how far her skills have come since day one.

Well that came round quickly!

We’re back at our benches and in the full swing of things for the Intermediate term of the Leiths Diploma.

Training as a chef doesn't just qualify you to cook; One of the reasons I chose Leiths is because they truly believe this, opening many different doors for you to try all the available routes out there. So, over the holidays, I took the opportunity and headed down to Cactus studios, where they film Saturday Kitchen. It's almost a right of passage for Leiths students to experience first hand what most of us have been watching every Saturday morning for years, dreaming “if only” (a definite pinch-yourself moment!)

I loved it: The fast pace, the energy, casually chatting to Ken Hom as his fingers seemed to quickly produce a perfectly rolled spring roll - something that takes me patience, wet fingers and lots of concentration to complete. 

I prepped mussels for someone called Rick then, about 2 hours later, the penny finally dropped and I realised - they meant RICK STEIN! He is a full name chef in my book and they're dropping his first name like he’s a mortal!

My time there went really well; So well in fact, that it is with great pleasure I can finally announce that Saturday Kitchen have found their new host... 

Okay, so I took the picture whilst the room was empty, but genuinely felt like I owned all of TV with that head set on (thanks again for indulging me).

After living the high life with the celebrity chefs, I headed back North for Christmas and had the opportunity to work in a restaurant (straight in the trenches) where the hard graft happens - in the kitchen! 

I betrayed the Saturday TV folk and moved to Sunday’s finest, working in Simon Rimmer’s Vegetarian Restaurant in Chorlton, Greens. I learnt  just how much prep and organisation goes into a service, and how five-spice and oyster mushrooms make a delicious alternative to shredded duck rolls.

I used to be a firm believer that veg is an amazing side to a great piece of meat or fish, yet after doing a Master Class with "the holistic chef" James Rafferty, I'd completely changed my mind with the help of a raw pad Thai and spicy pineapple sauce. I wanted learn more about plant based diets and thought this would be a great restaurant to discover cuisine solely focusing on the vegetarian/vegan diet - something my go-to list of recipes was currently lacking!

Let me stress so I’m not disowned by my nearest and dearest: I am not going vegan I am simply saying that I can see the benefits of occasionally having a meat free meal. It's all about balance and sustainability (but that’s a topic for another time).

After my whirlwind career as a TV Host (washer-upper) and Head Chef extraordinaire (veg-prepper), I thought I’d turn my hand to working behind the scenes with Leiths' Food Photography and Food Styling courses.

One thing I already know is that is that writing is something I love, so to pursue this within the foodie world could potentially make work my happy place. Today’s social media platforms enable the willing amateur to reach their audience directly, however, we have all become so visual! Gone are the days where a recipe on its own, or even a “normal” photo will do, so learning how to create the pictures I currently drool over will certainly help in my quest for chef/host/presenter/writer/author/photographer domination.

“I made the best decision following this path and I genuinely hope I never lose this enthusiasm.”

So, back to school...

This term has certainly stepped up a gear!  We were warned all the “participation trophy” encouragement would be out the window this term and, I won't lie, I was hoping the teachers would have become hippy dippy 'LA moms', saying "effort is all that counts!" But, it turns out I don’t need that.

The skills we learned in the foundation term are actually knocking about upstairs; over the holidays I could hear Sue saying "pale and fluffy" as I made a cake and Ansobé was in my head, pre-warning me as I was about to bang my beaters on the bowl containing freshly whisked egg whites - "This knocks out the air you have just put in Kelly!" 

I no longer have to consult my library of chefs before attempting a dish, I know the basics, and with this comes the skills to start making dishes of my own. Knowing how food works together, teamed with my greed and feeder tendencies? The creations could be endless

Oh yes! And did I mention that I am also a gardener now?

So my title is now that of chef/host/presenter/writer/author/photographer/GARDENER... an organic gardener at that! In fact, I should get livestock and open my own River Cottage. Although “puddle terrace-house" doesn’t quite have same ring to it, everyone has to start somewhere.   

One thing is for sure, I made the best decision following this path, and I genuinely hope I never lose this enthusiasm. I want to work in the wide world of food, so that means there is always something new to learn as it is always changing - and so am I. I love knowing that! 

Well...they cure things themselves at the River cottage, don’t they? Now that’s a thought!

By Kelly Stretton | Instagram: @kelstretton

You can read Kelly's earlier stories here.

If Kelly has you feeling inspired, we run both daytime and evening courses for the Essential Certificate, which can help you get to grips with the fundamental techniques of professional cookery and get you on your way to a food-based profession.

You can also take your patisserie skills to a new level and learn to create amazing sweet treats for friends and family in our Essential Professional Patisserie Skills course starting this February.

Or, if you feel like you already have the basic kitchen competencies covered and would like to carve out a career in the food industry, speak to someone at the school today about the Intermediate Certificate in Food and Wine.

Kelly Stretton

Author: Kelly Stretton

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