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From Knife Skills to Life Skills

The Edinburgh New Town Cookery School organising chef course Scotland

Many people dream of running their own restaurant, bistro or cafe and those dreams are born out of a passion for food and hospitality.

However, the desire to delight people with culinary creations is not enough in itself to succeed as a professional chef.  The world of gastronomy is competitive and cost-driven and many dreams have been dashed because more focus went on the presentation on the plate rather than on what the accountants will see on the bottom line.

It is life skills as well as knife skills that will provide the competitive edge for budding cooks and chefs.  It’s as much about balancing the books as weighing out the right ingredients.  Waste is money and often scraping the bowl and thinking about how excess food and leftovers can be used can impact on profit margins.

These are exactly the reasons why we put a particular emphasis on business training in our courses.  Planning, budgeting and costing needs to be built into every recipe and every menu.  Understanding food at its most basic level and taking account of what goes together, what seasonal means, what to look for in choosing produce, how different cuts of meat can be used, and how to turn great ideas into cash flow are all crucial to successful business. Equally important is having the knowledge to deal confidently with suppliers, not settling for second-best and ensuring top quality is delivered every time.

To bring all this to life, we invite the experts to show us how it’s done. Top chefs come into the school to see us and share their experiences; butchers bring half a lamb or half a pig and talk about choosing animals ‘on the hoof’ and the importance of knowing where they have come from; and produce suppliers demonstrate the skill of choosing the best fruit and vegetables.

Business owners get involved too.  People who know the importance of considering the future impact of daily business decisions – just as true in a kitchen as in a boardroom.  Our students learn the basics of profit and loss, cash flow and the balance sheet, alongside guidance on where to go for advice on setting up a business.  Life skills that are essential for both entrepreneurs and future chefs aspiring to run top restaurants and kitchens.

The most employable chefs will be those who can offer a complete package from field or farm to fork with quality and the bottom line in mind.  There’s more to it than chopping an onion, but it is fun to learn and the rewards are there for anyone who is determined and committed enough to go out and look for them.