Don’t Dream It’s Over


Oh yeah, I’m blonde now.

It feels like a lifetime ago that I started this blog – I was at Uni, had just purchased my first DSLR camera and was taking pictures of all the food I was cooking. It was really procrastination that led me to start writing and documenting recipes, pretty soon I was part of this larger community and it was all-consuming. From the blog I made the leap to freelance food writer (but, in all honesty, I really don’t think I was terribly good at it – lack of routine + masses of competition for paid gigs + definite lack of self-motivation and oodles of self-doubt when left to own devices = poor, sad, lonely Jackie), and from there a bit of an identity crisis and the decision to start cooking full-time, which has led me to where I am today. As such, the blog has changed as I have – these days I post barely any recipes, when I was at culinary school it became a diary of sorts for those 9 months, and following finishing there it’s become kind of an afterthought; when you spend 90% of your time in basements cooking, even entertaining the idea of writing a blog post seems like a mammoth task. Sadly, my once loved blog has seen better days.

London has been my base for all of these operations thus far. Sure, I travelled extensively and spent time living abroad in my younger years (lulz, younger years) but it’s always been London that I’ve returned to – the city I was born in and for the majority of my 29 years have lived in. I went to school in London, made and lost friends, found my first writing jobs, went to culinary school and subsequently worked exclusively in as a chef; and for all of the wonderful things London has brought me, it has also been a cause of great stress, heartbreak and struggle. I have moved house every year, barring 1, for the last 6 years of my life (because renting in London is akin to chopping off both legs and pledging your first born to your landlord), moved jobs countless times since I started cheffing (always with good reason), and poured my heart and soul into everything I’ve done, only to be taken for granted, trampled upon and unappreciated (by and large, obviously many exceptions). And, frankly, I’m exhausted. I still love food, I still love cooking and making others happy through my food, but I’m a little jaded, a little saddened and in need of a little change.

About two months ago TS and I received an email from our current estate agent, informing us that our landlord had decided to repossess our property. On the 26th December. Yeah. I know. After the initial outrage had passed, TS and I sat down in our kitchen to discuss what we were going to do about it – were we going to find another house in London to live in? Were we going to say “screw it” and get out of London, maybe move to Scotland, or perhaps Oxford or Cambridge? Or, was it time to maybe think about moving to New Zealand, a card that had been in our deck for the last couple of years?

For those of you who don’t know, TS is from the South Island and a couple of years ago he took me for a holiday around New Zealand where I completely and utterly fell in love with the country. It was green, it was peaceful, the food was incredible, the people were lovely, and from that moment I had already started to plot our escape, but one thing led to another, TS’ job situation changed slightly, and after discussing it we had decided to remain in London for a few more years, save up some more money (ha! Saving! In London!) and make the move “eventually”.

So back to the conversation TS and I were having in the kitchen. We had ruled out remaining in London and as we started to discuss the logistics of moving we realised that moving to another part of the country was going to be just as much effort as moving to New Zealand, and if we were planning on leaving at some point anyway, why not make that point now?

Friends, if I can say anything about myself, it is that I am very good at taking a terrible situation and turning it into an opportunity.


Keep Pushing: New Job (Again!), Desserts & a Cremeux Recipe


Yoghurt & honey mousse with strawberry jelly insert, strawberry gel & fresh Kent strawberries, coffee granola, cereal milk ice-cream and lemon balm.

If there was one word I could use to describe this crazy industry I find myself in it’s this: fluid.

When I started working as a professional pastry chef about 18 months ago (give or take), I never would’ve guessed that I’d have learned so much in such a short amount of time, met so many great people, or been given the opportunities to develop that I have; I also wouldn’t have guessed that I’d already be onto job no. 3.

I have incredibly mixed feelings about this. I come from an accomplished family who work in industries that value commitment and loyalty, values that were instilled in me from a young age. So moving around jobs so much as an adult leaves me feeling a bit torn – on the one hand, I feel disappointed in myself for not sticking it out or “going the distance”; on the other I know that the decisions I make are based on sound, logical (and sometimes medical) reasoning, and they’ve led me to the position I’m now in, which makes me incredibly happy.

Blueberry curd slice on maple pecan biscuit base, chai white chocolate cremeux, blueberry compote and sugar tuile; “The Malteser” – malt biscuit brushed with milk, dark choc & white choc cremeux, milk choc sorbet, malt meringue, malt streusel.

Everybody told me (and still continues to) that this life that I’ve chosen is a hard one, that I will sacrifice so much to it and that’s why I really have to love it; the talk I gave last year repeated this sage advice. The normal rules of “life” do not apply in the professional kitchen: when you burn yourself you pick your cookies up, run it under cold water and slap some cream on it, then you continue; when you cut yourself you wrap it up and keep going, unless you’re bleeding over everything, in which case you might go to the hospital, but probably you’re just going to do something weird like using meat glue to stick yourself back together (side note: meat glue is the most disgusting thing I have ever heard of); racism, sexism, abuse and harassment are just kitchen banter and if you want to complain about it you’re going to be labelled as “that-person-who-bitched-about-everything”. In other words, any normal “work-place propriety” does not apply here and that’s something I’ve had to get used to very quickly.

I remember the first time I saw something I deemed “inappropriate” in a kitchen: a senior chef was bollocking a junior for something they had messed up, which he then followed up by grabbing him by his chef whites and practically shoving his head into the pot of food. I froze, felt my stomach rise into my throat and I remember thinking, “this is really happening, this isn’t on TV, this is happening right now“. It was terrifying but the thing that shocked me the most was how the rest of the staff did nothing. If anything, they sped up, terrified that they would be next (and now, having been on the other side, I know exactly why they did/said nothing). I was called over to a station and truffles were thrust into my hands with the instruction to hurry and put these away as fast as I could – I practically ran, my cheeks red, still hearing the shouting coming from behind me.
“Why am I doing this?!” My head screamed at me, “why am I here?!”

And yet I’m still here, still working, and I’ve finally grown that thick skin everybody told me about. But I was sick of the 16+ hour days, of coming home to find my partner asleep and leaving before he woke up, of not even having enough time to look after my health properly, of being so exhausted and stressed out that I was getting sick every two weeks. So after a year in a busy hotel and a few months in a busy restaurant, I needed to take a step-back, re-evaluate and find a job that would allow me to develop my own work and progress, as well as look after myself and my partner a little better.

Amazingly, I found that and I am now so happy in my work life it’s unbelievable.


I’m Still Feeding: New Digs & A Few Developments


My first team, my best girls!

Just when you thought I’d disappeared into the ether, never to be seen again, I figured I’d stir things up a bit and write a blog post. I know, it’s almost like I’ve been doing this for nearly five years, or something!

So what’s going on with me? Well, I’m still pastry chef-ing, though I have recently moved on from a wonderful year filled with learning and excellent people at Claridge’s. I briefly worked with a small business but it wasn’t a great fit so I moved on (it seems strange to have so much turnover in this industry and yet it happens all the time! TS was just remarking the other day how the hospitality industry appears to be the only one where people regularly lose their minds and just walk out in the middle of their shift; I didn’t do this, by the way), and I now work as a slightly higher position in a restaurant/hotel which I officially cannot talk about. It’s a bit like Fight Club – the first rule of your new job is: do not talk about where you are currently a pastry chef. The second rule of your new job is: DO NOT TALK ABOUT WHERE YOU ARE CURRENTLY A PASTRY CHEF. Suffice to say that I am very happy, learning a lot, loving my team and I get to play with liquid nitrogen. Oh, also, my new executive head chef is somebody I’ve admired for a long time so the fact that I get to work with him now is just a dream come true! The chef fan girl in me quietly freaks out every time he talks to me, which I would never admit in person because I’m pretty sure he’d get very embarrassed and then, uh, never talk to me again.


All Day, All Night: Settling Into My New Routine & An Announcement!


Life has been a whirlwind lately, hence why I’ve not managed to post for the past few months. Early starts, late finishes and an awful lot of heavy lifting fill my days but you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way because I have so much fun doing it all.

Sure, there have been days when I’ve been so stressed out of my head that I’ve had to leave the kitchen to sob for 5 minutes, there have been days when I’ve questioned why I’m doing this, am I too old, too green, not tough enough, but at the end of the questions I come back to the same conclusion: I chose this because I love it, because the work I do is rewarding and because I’m so proud to be a part of it.