Practice Makes Perfect: A Leiths Christmas Holiday by Gemma Scott

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Practice Makes Perfect: A Leiths Christmas Holiday by Gemma Scott

While some of us took the time to relax over the holidays, our Diploma students were putting their newfound skills into practice on work experience placements. Gemma shares how the Foundation Term prepared her for a stint in food publishing and reveals what goes into a great food photo.

Before we knew it, the Foundation Term was over.

Term one had taken us from a group of nervous strangers, spending two hours on a salad, to new friends confidently (sort of) executing four recipes under assessment conditions in about the same time!

Once the exams were over, it was holiday time! A time to kick back, relax and hang up the chef whites, right? Wrong! Practice makes perfect after all, and that pastry won’t improve on its own, so you’ve got to keep on practising. Cue our teacher Ansobé’s parting message at the end of term: "Please, please do some cooking over the holidays!"

The Christmas holidays were also a great opportunity to get some work experience under our belts. The course requires each student complete three placements so that we have some 'real-life' cooking experience, which in turn helps us decide what we might want to do with ourselves once the year at Leiths is over – a time I quite frankly don’t want to think about right now! There’s a world of opportunities, including: restaurants, catering companies, product development and food magazines. The holidays are a chance to get a taste of the industry!

Some of my classmates have admirably tackled long shifts at restaurants (props to Flick for the three 8am to midnight shifts in a row!) while I took a dive into the world of publishing at two of the UK’s top food magazines; Olive and Delicious. I assisted at photo shoots, spent days testing recipes, chopped a LOT of onions (knife skills!) and got a brilliant insight into how magazines produce a monthly stream of drool-inducing recipes, complete with stunning photos.

“It’s so rewarding to see the dishes being enjoyed.”

What I learned? Firstly, a lot about food styling and photography.

There’s a reason your kitchen snaps never look as good as the magazine pictures. The right lighting is key; ideally daylight or, in a murky London winter, good artificial lighting. Props are also integral. The plates, cutlery and glasses painstakingly gathered by stylists from the treasure trove of prop warehouses are not only stunning (IKEA hand-me-downs they are not) but tiny! Teeny teaspoons and thimble-sized wine glasses make the pictures look beautiful.

I also learned that it really is all about testing, checking and then doing it again. I got the chance to test out recipes created by the magazine’s food team and celebrity chefs. Each is triple tested to ensure that a home cook can easily follow along and produce perfect dishes every time. This was a great way to get in plenty of cooking practice, as well as learning about industry processes.

I turned out cakes, indulgent pasta bakes, healthy stir fries and salads, pastry, mousses, white sauces a-plenty and, of course, did lots and lots of veg chopping. Our time in the Leiths kitchens is great practice for this; plotting out the best order of tasks, juggling oven and hob space and knowing how to share equipment when you have three busy cooks in the kitchen without coming to blows over who gets the cheese grater next…

Recipe testing and photo shoots are hard work with long days on your feet in the kitchen. But it’s so rewarding to see the dishes being enjoyed, tweaking them to perfection, and then seeing them come to life in the finished photos - well, when the magazines are published later this year!

By Gemma Scott | Instagram: @gemmascoffs

Gemma is currently taking the Three Term Diploma in Food and Wine, but she was able to confidently undertake work experience at Delicious and Olive magazines after completing the Foundation Term alone. If you'd like to take the Foundation Certificate as a stand alone course, you can find more information here

If you'd like to produce your own publication-worthy food photos, you can learn how to style the perfect shot with industry experts in our Food Styling course.

Or, if you'd rather improve your culinary capabilities without compromising your busy schedule, the Essential Certificate can prepare you for a professional environment alongside your other commitments. Choose from a selection of start dates that run both during the day and in the evenings

Gemma Scott

Author: Gemma Scott

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