The Rise of the "Shef" by Kelly Stretton

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The Rise of the "Shef" by Kelly Stretton

As our students head into the last few weeks of their Advanced Term, student blogger Kelly reflects on the wedding of the year, early morning vineyard visits and all the inspirational chefs she's met over the course of her year at Leiths. Now, she's looking forward to discovering which type of chef she'll become....

"We are women, hear us roar!" (...and watch us knock it outta the park too.)

The industry is changing, my friends. Gone (or going, for the sorry few still holding on) are the days of screaming head chefs, 20 hour shifts, no time off and misogyny ruling the kitchens. 

The whole industry is catching up with what most people, thankfully, now put high on the priority list - the work life balance. A more welcoming and inclusive environment is one of the reasons more women are coming into the industry and making a difference at every level. 

Being in the ‘overs’ group (aka 30 plus) I thought meant I was too old for a career change, but I am so grateful to have been able to train at this time and at this school. 

Founded by an inspirational woman, run by inspirational women and taught by the most inspiring women on a daily basis; all who have been out into the industry, smashed it and led the way for us coming up through the ranks. 

Each day they push us to be better, inspiring us to knock down any walls, go after our dreams and make history in whatever corners of the culinary world we choose, as they are ALL open to us if we want them. You could say I’m slightly inspired!

“Sisters are doing it for themselves”

Never has there been a better time or a more equal time for the next influx of female chefs from all generations, both here and across the pond. Leiths has been female led for a while now and last year the Culinary Institute of America opened it doors to more women than men, for the first time, with a 51.6% female enrollment. 

(Cue singing “Sisters are doing it for themselves!”)

I look around me at school, as the next year of Leiths alumni get ready to enter the kitchens/studios/schools, and know that these women are something to be reckoned with. They are powerful, empowered, hilarious, motivated and very talented women, making life-changing decisions at various points of life and I’m so looking forward to seeing them all kick ass out there! 👊

Tough days at the office this month… starting with a field trip to two vineyards in Sussex and a sparkling wine tasting. #ROADTRIP

It’s amazing to see how we are rocking it as a country in the sparkling wine department and quickly catching up with our European counterparts; even winning awards next to the big boys of the wine industry. 

My favourite has to be the Fitzrovia Sparkling Rosè from Ridgeview (I was not on my  own here - we pretty much all bought a crate). This was the first time the idea of food pairing an entire menu with just sparkling wine made sense, as the flavours in the wines were very different. I think a hard day of research is on the cards here!

5 weeks left - 4 weeks of classes and the last week is exam week… no pressure!

This month has been a delicious offering of desserts! We have upped the game with plating - I could spend my life creating and plating dishes (much to the delight of my tutor..ha!) so have been in my element.

I have mastered my lemon tart, a personal fave from childhood, and I have to say I really do feel like a pro-chef with the blow torch in hand! 

Portfolios have been handed in, our wine exam is complete; just the theory exam and the practical assessment to go and we are Leiths GRADUATES, class of 2018! Throw our hats (and our crocs) in the air!

“So, what's the grand plan?”

Most of my blogs have been around figuring out which ‘chef’ I want to be and, as my time here comes to an end and the decision of what career to pursue arrives, I have figured out I want my hands in all the pies (literally)!

I have had the honour of meeting so many amazing chefs whilst here. 

This month we met Giorgio Locatelli who took us on a tour of Italy and showed us what Mozzarella should actually taste like. Believe me when I say it is not the same in your local supermarket. We learned the quality of good produce and the difference it makes in dishes. 

We also had the pleasure of Peter Gordon leading one of our demonstrations. This was a personal favourite of mine and I have made many a salad from his Savour book so it was brilliant to learn a few more tricks about fusion food and to purchase his new book, which he openly told us he was here to flog.

The chefs who visit us come from all areas of the industry, some of whom are restaurant chefs, private chefs, stylists, writers, teachers, presenters and the people I find most inspiring; the ones who do not have a set job or have worked within many roles. Everything comes from the heart and is within the foodie industry, but each day/month/year is different.

My goal for uprooting our life in the North was to follow my passions of the palette and hopefully earn a few pennies along the way. So, what's the grand plan?

*Big breath*...A summer of private chef-ing, a supper club in Manchester when we return in September, food styling, food writing for both magazines and blogs, a pop up and maybe a restaurant, perhaps a converted street food truck touring the globe; a cook book when I have something to write about (definite bucket list), and then finally a cookery school to share everything I have learnt. 

And the best bit is that the order really doesn’t matter... I just can't wait to begin!

I shall leave you with this as it’s "Desserts Month" at school and as not so long ago there was a quite a lot of hoo-ha around a certain wedding! I have just made my first ever wedding cake! 

I mean I would have made our Harry's but school has kept me busy so I opted to make a small one for the girls arriving to watch the celebrations. So below is my version of the forever famous Lemon and Elderflower cake. 

If you feel inspired by Kelly and our other student blogger stories and would like to know more about the Leiths Diploma, email or call 020 8749 6400 to book an informal interview and a tour of the school. 

It's time to fulfil those foodie fantasies... 

Kelly Stretton

Author: Kelly Stretton

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