Kelley Terlip came from the United States of America to attend our Three Month Beginners Certificate Course in September 2012. Since she left us she has been very busy building a successful career in food. We asked Kelley to tell us about her time at ENTCS and what she has done since.
Where did your passion for food start?
My passion for food started at a very young age. My grandmother and three of my aunts were professional cooks, so I guess you could say it is in my blood. Many of my family’s traditions take place around food and being the great granddaughter of immigrants from Slovenia and Italy we had a lot of family recipes and food traditions. I also grew up in a family of avid gardeners so I fell in love with the way food was produced. I took my first job as a short order cook when I was 14 years old and I have never looked back.
What encouraged you to follow your passion and undertake professional training?
I graduated from Kansas State with a B.S. in Sociology and Horticulture with a focus on food culture and trends. It only seemed natural to round out my education and get formal culinary training.
Why did you choose Edinburgh New Town Cookery School in particular?
I knew I wanted to attend a cookery course but having just graduated from a 4 year university I didn’t want to do a two or four year program. I wanted something that was full time where I could really get an intense training. One of the benefits of Edinburgh New Town Cookery School is the class size; you get a lot of direct interaction with your teachers which is a huge bonus. You aren’t just a number. I also knew I wanted to study abroad and explore food cultures outside of the States, Scotland has such beautiful produce and proteins and it was a no brainer. I did thorough research and with a solid reputation and being located in a beautiful city, ENTCS was the obvious choice.
What aspects of cookery inspired you?
There are a couple things about cooking that really inspire me. First of all – innovation. This industry is always changing and advancing. I love to take classic dishes and write a recipe that makes them healthy, different and trendy. Another thing I love about cookery is how it makes me feel connected to people, whether it be feeding people, using a recipe that reminds me of my grandmother or sitting around the dinner table with loved ones. I also love the people, there is no other industry where you meet so many great people and make so many connections.
The top things you learned whilst at ENTCS that have been most useful?
The obvious answer is learning the technical and scientific aspects of cookery. I feel that I walked away from the course with a wealth of knowledge and a solid foundation to build upon. My job relies heavily on writing really solid recipes. We don’t use a lot of salt or fat to season our food so we have to draw flavour from other places. Having formal training taught me how to draw flavour out of ingredients and cook them the correct way.
Time management was also definitely something that was drilled in to us at ENTCS. I’d go home every night with my recipes and our “time plan” template and plan out every second of the next day to optimize time and work at maximum efficiency. Eventually, after filling these out enough, time management and thinking about how every second can be utilized started to come naturally. I say it all the time; great chefs never move a finger without their being a purpose. This is actually something I still do with my cooks, we provide food to several wholesale accounts and we make our food fresh the morning of the delivery. When we get a last minute order from an account I want to make sure to not only fulfil the order with products that are at the standard our clients are used to but also I want to reduce stress for my team in the morning when they are on a time crunch to get the products out the door in time for the delivery.
How you got to where you are now?
After cookery school I spent some time working as a line cook at a French inspired seafood restaurant on the coast of Florida. I loved the team I was working with but couldn’t get behind the food we were cooking. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious, but what always inspired me was creative healthy dishes and sustainable agriculture. I moved to Philadelphia and started working as a personal chef with a focus on healthy food but found myself missing collaborating with a team for new ideas and concepts.
This led me to accept a position with a Philly based vegan restaurant group I worked in the corporate office alongside the CEO, Director of Operations and Creative Director helping to build the brands and gear up for a national expansion. Like any job with a start up restaurant group I did everything from HR to branding and marketing to emergency runs to the restaurant supply store when a cook dumped water in to the rice cooker without putting the pot in first.
After I felt like I had learned everything I could at that position I accepted a job as a front of house manager at a craft beer and new American cuisine concept. There was a learning curve, I came up in kitchens and had never worked the front of house.
I then moved on to be general manager for a Philly based restaurant group. They had three concepts, all fast casual and all made from scratch brands and when I say made from scratch I’m talking no gimmicks, we make everything in house using raw ingredients. The food was innovative, healthy, on trend and the concepts were young enough that I felt like I could really make my mark.
I started off working managing the most established brand learning the operations and my role quickly grew in to a position on the executive leadership team. Now I procure and manage wholesale accounts, spearhead recipe development and innovation, help develop brand story and collateral alongside the founder and CEO, meet with social influencers to showcase our products, manage day to day operations of the restaurants and the commissary kitchen and help with everything else it takes to become a scalable operation and stay relevant in a city with an up and coming food scene.
What would you say to someone considering doing the same course as you?
You should absolutely do it. There is the age old argument that cookery school is a waste of money- go learn in kitchens. However, I don’t feel I would be nearly as competent when creating new recipes, managing operational aspects of kitchens and working in the business without the course. You meet likeminded people, create a network of professionals and gain in depth knowledge about techniques and traditional cookery that can’t be learned in the prep room.
Do you have any advice for newly qualified students?
Utilize your mentors, ask questions, stay late and work off the clock for the sake of learning. Take in every piece of knowledge you can while you are at school and don’t be afraid to make a mistake or try a dish that might seem crazy. The beautiful thing about the hospitality industry is that you are never done innovating or learning, there is never a dull moment. However, to be truly successful you can’t be scared to take chances. If a job doesn’t feel right, don’t stay for the sake of comfort. Work in a lot of kitchens with a lot of different kinds of cuisine, never burn bridges, always leave a place better than you found it and never say no to trying something new.