Student of the Year 2015 Chris Rowley

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Student of the Year 2015 Chris Rowley

2015 Student Of The Year Chris Rowley made the brave decision to turn his back on corporate life and enter the food world. Here, Chris offers 5 inspirational messages to consider for those of you looking to follow in his footsteps.

It’s incomprehensible that my Leiths Diploma is over. Done. Last weekI was sweating it out for my final exam, then graduation and
celebrations and this week I’m working as a qualified private chef. I’ve already served canapés to the rich and famous at an
incredible Summer party and am planning a wedding for 90 in France before heading north to a Highland estate where I will embrace the start of grouse shooting season.

I will certainly miss the structure, learning, cooking and friends made along the way but I will also take many of these things and a list
of other things too innumerable to even make, with me. I’m sure I will be talking about Leiths in a positive way for the rest of my life but as
I head into my new career here’s what I’m especially thankful for. Perhaps these five things might just inspire you to give up your day job
and take your place as a Diploma student.

1. Seize the day!For me, Leiths meant leaving the world of corporate banking behind. Ihave felt so relieved getting up each morning to do something that I genuinely enjoy. It is still hard work but the reward of feeding people and seeing clients enjoying an event I have created is enough. Leiths has inspired, challenged and made me happy. It has also opened the doorsto some brilliant opportunities – chance to work behind the scenes at Saturday Kitchen, at Rick Stein’s legendary The Seafood Restaurant, withsome prestigious private clients and alongside chefs and teachers I greatly admire teaching workshops too.

2. Work Clean. Life in a commercial kitchen and cooking for greater numbers than at a family supper is intense. It is hot and there is always a lot to do. Whilst teachers constantly remind you how important it is to be well prepared and to keep tidy, the more you can make it a habit, the easier and quicker it becomes. Working clean helped me to stay in control, keepon track with tasks and timings and be less likely to panic and make mistakes. My food probably looks and tastes better as a result and it’s never a bad thing to earn brownie points from the chefs around you.

3. Be positive. A wonderful part of the Leiths journey has been being surrounded by like-minded, ambitious people who are as obsessed with and positive about food as I am. My most successful days in the kitchen are not the ones where I have been worried or feeling negative. It is far better to understand what has gone wrong than to make excuses. Stepping into a restaurant kitchen for the first time is daunting and finding a chef serving a style of food I really aspired to and remembering that you don’t need to be Gordon Ramsay to produce good food, eased that step. My stage at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw was a happy surprise and very inspiring. At this level I did not expect the atmosphere to be so calm. Chefs worked politely alongside each other under pressure and it was the most efficient and pleasant kitchen I’ve ever worked in. Nathan himself took time to talk to me, demonstrate dishes and share his knowledge.

4. Leiths has only raised my standards and ambitions. Having worked with some incredible ingredients throughout the Diploma and on stages, I will go on to buy the best ingredients and equipment I can afford. Whether it’s a bacon sandwich, a tasting menu or selecting new equipment, choosing carefully and investing in the best available will be rewarded. In my experience, there’s few things worse than a cheap bin bag which inevitably splits at the end of a long shift or event.

5. Be open. Never stop learning. I’m all too aware that my learning in the culinary world is still in its infancy. Every kitchen I walk into and every recipe I read adds something, even if it is a way not to do something rather than a top tip. I became very spoiled by the demonstrations at Leiths but by maintaining focus and really listening and asking questions, even when tired or distracted, I have taken something away from every session. I always carry a notebook or make notes on my phone because you cannot simply remember everything and can’t wait to turn my constant scrawl into a successful business.

For now, it’s still sinking in that it’s over and that I was awarded Laurent – Perrier’s Best All Round Graduate 2015. I’m so grateful to
Leiths for all I have experienced and to my family for their support during this life-change. I’ll be putting my new skills to use in various
kitchens, finalising my business plans and finding a premises for my dream business. Next week, I’m back to studying for the WSET Level Three and putting the finishing touches to the event plan for the French wedding I’m running in a couple of weeks.

Eliza Welsford

Author: Eliza Welsford

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