Lucy Harding attended our Six Month Practical Cookery Diploma in September 2013 after deciding that university wasn’t for her. She has been very busy since she left us and has formed a fascinating and exciting career. We asked Lucy to tell us why she decided to leave university and start a career in food and where this decision has taken her.
Where did your passion for food start?
Growing up in the south of France really started my passion for food; I’ve been really inspired by the Mediterranean, and its social food culture As a child, I was also very much inspired by my grandmother, who was an absolutely wonderful cook, and had a great ability to bring people together over food.
What encouraged you to undertake a professional cookery course?
Before starting at ENTCS I was stuck in a rut at University and spending my days daydreaming about cooking instead of revising. Like a lot of people, I had fallen into an academic degree without really knowing what I wanted to do, and I would immerse myself in cook books and documentaries about food whenever I wasn’t studying. It was only through discovering Julia Child and reading about her time at Le Cordon Bleu that I realised that it was possible to formally study cooking; I suddenly felt absolutely sure that that was what I needed to do. From that discovery on I was completely hooked on the idea of doing a professional cookery diploma, and took a sabbatical to enrol at the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School.
Why did you choose Edinburgh New Town Cookery School in particular and what aspects of it inspired you?
ENTCS was the perfect choice in many ways. As it was local, I didn’t have to worry about relocating, and the course length fitted well with taking a sabbatical year from university. I was also drawn to the small teaching groups and the focus on every student’s individual strengths and goals.
I really enjoy the creative process of cooking; that in a sense there are no rules, and you can just be inspired by the produce. As well as the creative side, for me the appeal of food has also always stemmed from its inclusivity, and the way it shapes people and cultures. Eating is something everyone has in common and I love connecting with people over food that tells a story.
What are the top things you learned whilst at ENTCS that have been most useful?
I learnt so many transferable skills during my time at ENTCS, and undoubtedly these have been most useful. Being organised and focused were integral to the diploma, and I have definitely carried these things through to my working life. The menu planning and theory elements of the diploma also taught me to channel creative energy effectively, which has been incredibly useful in my work.
Where has your career led you?
After leaving ENTCS I tested the waters in as many working environments as I could. I spend time as a stagier in a Michelin star, helped out at a fishmonger and then moved on to working as a private chef both in the UK and abroad. I always knew I was passionate about creative and ethical food, so from there I took a step towards café culture. Since then I have been focused on creative development in Edinburgh cafes, as well as promoting food inclusivity and equality through other projects including working with the Refugee Community Kitchen providing food aid to refugees in France. Since leaving ENTCS I have realised how much my passion for food is shaped by social justice, and am I now moving to New York to pursue a degree in Food Policy and Sustainability.
What would you say to someone considering doing the same course as you?
Go for it! The course is such a great jumping off point for exploring all the different working environments within the food industry, so make the most of it. Grab any opportunity that comes your way and try and use it to learn which areas suit you best.
Do you have any advice for newly qualified students?
Be open to all the experiences ahead of you and don’t stress that the very first job you after leaving do has to be ‘the one’ – don’t be afraid to try new things until you find the right environment for you. Try and keep up connections with your teachers and fellow students, as you never know what exciting opportunities might pop up.