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Leila Van Nieuwenhuyse

Leila Van Nieuwenhuyse
Leila Van Nieuwenhuyse

Leila took our 6 Month Diploma Course and graduated in March 2014. Since leaving Leila has worked with various catering companies and is now based in Norfolk where she is freelancing for catering companies and cooking for her own private clients.

We asked Leila to talk about the time she spent with us at ENTCS and where her training has led her up to now.

“My passion for food started at a very young age. My mother is half Iranian, and food is a huge part of my family’s culture. Cooking was something that brought us all together and I can remember my grandfather cooking up some amazing Iranian stews and delicious rice dishes each time we came together.

The smell of dill brings up all sorts of memories and takes me straight back to the kitchen to be with him. My mother is a fantastic cook and always encouraged me to help her and I learned a lot from her.

I went to Edinburgh University and after taking a shorter 2 week culinary course at a different cook school a year before, during the holidays, I came to realise that it was when I was in the kitchen that I was at my happiest. I had no problem spending all day cooking and devoting all my time to it, and I realised I might want to undertake further training and follow my passion for cooking.

At the time I was still living in Edinburgh and I thought there wasn’t a better and more ideal place that I could go to than the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School because of its excellent reputation.

I have always been inspired by the creativity that cookery allows you. It can be a very unique way of expressing yourself, not only through presentation of dishes but also through tastes and flavours. This has always inspired me to create things that I love and that I hope will also bring joy to anyone else that eats them.

Time management was one of the most important things I learned whilst at ENTCS and the one thing that I continue to use throughout my career.

I would also say that every skill learned at ENTCS has played a big part in what I do now, and the invaluable knowledge that I gained and confidence in my cooking allows me to successfully cook for other people on a daily basis.

After I finished the 6 Month Diploma I went on to do several stages at different restaurants around Edinburgh to see if this was something that might interest me.

I also started working with a couple catering companies and I found that this was much more to my liking and so I continued working for them for a few months. I then got offered a full time position with one of the companies and I worked there full time before I moved to Norfolk where I am now based. In Norfolk I continue to work in catering and I work with several different companies on a freelance basis.

I also take on many of my own private clients and cater for different smaller events on my own. I really enjoy this style of work as it allows me to work with many different people and cater different kinds of events. Days are never boring as you are often cooking completely different things based on what the client wants.

I would say that taking the Diploma was one of the best and most rewarding things that I ever did. The best advice I could give would be don’t hold back, take risks and learn from your mistakes, but most importantly enjoy what you are doing.

Try as many different areas of the culinary world that you may be interested in. Be it restaurants, catering, food styling, etc. don’t be afraid to test the waters if you really don’t know what you want to do. There are so many areas of cooking that you can work in and so why not try all those that interest you in order to find something that you really enjoy and can thrive doing.