Where are they now? Olia Hercules

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Where are they now? Olia Hercules

Olia Hercules

2010 Diploma graduate Olia is making a storm in the food world. Named this year as The Observer’s rising star in food and with her first recipe book recently published, Olia is one to watch.

Name: Olia Hercules

Year graduated: 2010

Current job title: Food writer, food stylist, pop up chef

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

Inspirational, life-changing, thrilling

Where were you working before the diploma?

I worked as a junior reporter for Screen International (film industry magazine)

What made you decide to start the diploma?

2008 crisis, redundancies, fear that I was doing something that I didn’t love as much as one should to make life as exciting as it should be. I was really ill at home one night and then Leiths’ advert came on one of the food channels. It was the moment that I decided to give everyting up and turn my hobby into my profession.

What were the highlights of your year at Leiths?

Learning techniques that I wouldn’t have ever in learnt in restaurants; meeting many a soul mate; A saturday job washing dishes during Ottolenghi cookery classes – that man inspired me a lot.

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

I worked as chef de partie at Union Market bistro with Aaron Craze.

Where are you working now?

I work for myself. Food styling is my day job. But Ive also written a book (Mamushka) published by Octopus, so I am now doing a lot more writing for the Guardian and others. I am also doing research for my second book.

How has the diploma helped you in your current role?

Leiths list was brilliant. It helped me stay afloat when I went freelance. Leiths also gave me the confidence and knowledge that are invaluable for a chef.

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

Every single day.

What are your long term career goals?

To become a respected food writer, hopefully internationally.

What are you cooking or eating for dinner tonight?

I am making my Ukrainian grandmother’s courgette, new potato and dill stew called ‘sous’. Served with sourdough.

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

Do it if you are committed and it’s your decision. It was a little irritating to see students who did not want to be there and were made to do it by their parents. It is a serious course with a majority of committed students who have taken a big life-changing step. The teachers work really hard and are committed too. Of course a lot of fun has been had during the course, but the course as a whole should be treated with respect. It really does open doors into the food world. But you have to really want to be in it.

What is your favourite restaurant to eat at?

I love Green Lanes where I live. My favourite local is Hala where they make incredible pomegranate barbecued quails.
Image credits: Kris Kirkham

Olia's website

Author: Lizzy Jones

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