Where are they now? Frances Winn

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Where are they now? Frances Winn

Frances left behind a career in advertising to become a foodie freelancer...

Name: Frances Winn

Year graduated: 2012

Current job title: Freelance recipe developer, food writer and private cooking teacher

How would you describe your year on the diploma at Leiths in 3 words?

Rewarding, exhausting, buttery

What were you doing/Where were you working before the diploma?

I worked in advertising as an account director for 8 years. In hindsight, it was a pretty strong background for working at Leiths, as time management, and attention to detail are all critical for getting through the practical exams at Leiths. I loved working in advertising, but I knew that one day I wanted to learn about food and cooking properly…

What made you decide to start the diploma?

I’d always been a pretty confident home cook, but soon realised that proper professional cooking skills weren’t something I could teach myself. I started the diploma not really knowing what I wanted to do with it, but I knew that food and cooking was something I wanted to do as a career.

What were the highlights of your year at Leiths?

I recall getting some sort of perverse enjoyment out of the endless repetitions and rules of puff pastry. More generally, I loved the days when you learn a new skill that you know will stay with you for life like making fresh pasta, learning how to make caramel, and how to fillet a fish. I must admit I haven’t made parsley dust since my final exam!

What was your first job or work experience following the diploma?

I started out working with food magazines like Waitrose Kitchen, Olive, and Jamie Magazine doing recipe testing. It’s a good way into media/food magazines, and you end up testing a load of things that you wouldn’t normally cook so you carry on learning new skills and new ways of doing things.

Where are you working now?

I’m doing a variety of things right now: some food and recipe writing for magazines, I’m also still doing as much recipe testing as I can as it’s a useful thing to keep doing. I recently tested an entire vegan cookbook, which was pretty full on, but I learned a lot of vegan food tricks! I’m also doing some private cookery teaching in my local area. I work on a freelance basis, mainly from my home in Wiltshire but also work in London every now and again. Although I miss being around the London restaurants there is something a bit more ‘real’ about living in the countryside where people’s food habits aren’t really influenced by hipster food trends.

How has the diploma helped you in your current role?

I use it every single working day. There is no way I could work doing what I do without it. It’s often the little things that you don’t even realise you’re doing that that people comment on, like the way I chop an onion, and of course the way I fastidiously clean down after every cooking session!

How often do you use the skills you learnt at Leiths?

All the time! The diploma is very broad so it’s easy for certain things to slip once you’re out of that environment. So I try and keep my hand in with the trickier things every now and again so that I don’t forget. For example, last week I randomly made a batch of croissants just to remind myself of the process. I haven’t boned a chicken since I left though so I’m working up to that next!

What are your long term career goals?

I'm really enjoying working with food magazines, and I’d like to continue that as long as possible. I work on a freelance basis which means work can be very unpredictable, but it also means you get a lot of variety in your work. When things are quiet on the magazine/books front I have time to spend on the private teaching, which I am doing locally. I’m currently teaching local teenagers various cooking skills to contribute towards their Duke of Edinburgh Award programme. Last week we did raspberry soufflés and profiteroles, and they were great! One day it would be wonderful to have a proper big teaching kitchen with lots of ovens for my lessons!

What are you cooking or eating for dinner tonight?

Risotto! Made with olive oil, garlic, pecorino, and leftover roast chicken.

What key piece of advice would you offer to anyone thinking of studying at Leiths?

Go for it, it’s one of the best things I ever did. You have to be prepared for how exhausting it can be. It’s physically and sometimes mentally quite tough. Don’t be precious about your cooking either – criticism of the food is part of the process.

What is your favourite restaurant to eat at?

Most recently I had a very memorable meal at Joe’s Seafood in Washington DC. This is a restaurant that knows what it’s about and is
confident enough to stick to it without overcomplicating things. The lobster and prawns were fabulous.

Take a look at Frances' website

Twitter: @FrancesWinn

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