Learn what Nena Foster does on a typical day at work
Natural Chef graduate Nena Foster works as a Natural Chef, food and nutrition writer and stylist, recipe developer, food educator and an online cookery and fermentation teacher. Nena loves her job and she took some time out of her busy schedule to share what it’s like in the day of a Natural Chef. So, if you’re an aspiring Natural Chef or thinking about becoming one, here’s a sneak peek into what a typical working day might look like.
What is a typical working day as a Natural Chef?
Depending on the week and what I have scheduled, my days can look quite different. Some days there will be consultation calls or getting up-to-speed on the latest gut health research. Other days I’ll be writing blogs and developing material for private gut nutrition sessions. If I have a recipe development deadline, I’ll spend the day shopping for ingredients or in the kitchen tinkering with recipes and writing them up. If I have a shoot coming up, there’s more shopping, planning and back and forth with the client to ensure we have a clear plan and vision for what we need to achieve on the day. I’m also starting a food education programme in a local primary school, so some days will be spent in schools working with teachers and children. One consistent thing I always have to do is marketing; Instagram and LinkedIn posts, newsletters and working on collaborations.
When did you decide to become a Natural Chef and how did you go about pursuing this goal?
When on maternity leave with my second child, I decided I wanted a career change. I’ve always loved cooking and food, but I was also passionate about health and nutrition. I wanted to find a course that could help me do both of these things and after lots of research, I found the Natural Chef diploma at CNM.
What do you love most about being a Natural Chef?
I love that I’m doing something I’m passionate about and that my work is so varied, reflecting my diverse interests and passions. One of the best things about being a Natural Chef is that I’ve learnt about cooking and nutrition so I can combine that knowledge and share it with other people.
What has been your biggest learning since graduating?
There is no blueprint for making a career as a Natural Chef and your career doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. You can pave your own way based on your interests. When I was completing my internship hours, I tried out lots of different jobs so that I could learn what I liked (which is teaching) and what I didn’t like (wedding catering); I used these experiences to craft a unique career path that works for me.
How important was the work experience you gained as part of the Natural Chef diploma? Did it impact your career post-graduation?
I found my work experience was invaluable and it helped me discover what potential job opportunities were possible. I knew I didn’t want to be a private chef or a restaurant or cafe chef. I also didn’t want to do fridge fills or develop a product. I threw myself into the work experience, doing nearly double the required hours to learn what I did and didn’t want to do. I took every experience, good and bad, as a valuable learning experience. I worked as a kitchen assistant in a cookery school and as a chef for a nature-based children’s holiday camp; I also assisted on food styling shoots, ran a stall at a food festival, helped with a vegan pop up and did some recipe testing. I ended up doing 60 internship hours over the required 100 and I’m so grateful I did.
What advice would you give anyone considering a career as a Natural Chef?
Do what you’re passionate about. Find your own voice and forge your own path. My advice would be to find people whose work you admire, reach out to them and ask if you can help them in their business. Be persistent, follow up and recognise that you can learn something from anyone, especially when you’re starting out and you want to gain new skills. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves up and get stuck in.
What is your go-to recipe at the moment?
When the weather is warm, my fermented gazpacho is my favourite dish to have in the fridge and it also makes a delicious addition to any meal. It’s a great way to use up the last of your summer tomatoes or preserve them when they are at peak to use later (when you’re pining for summer weather). I love having an assortment of homemade dips in the fridge such as herby hummus, red pepper and pumpkin seed muhammara, smoked mackerel pate and garlicky whipped tahini to go with anything and everything. And of course, I love throwing my selection of ferments into anything I create.
Where is your favourite place to go for dinner?
I haven’t eaten out in a long while, but my past favourites include Palomar, Peckham Bazaar, Spring and Little Duck – The Picklery. I like restaurants that don’t overcomplicate cooking and which serve simple dishes using beautiful ingredients in innovative ways, leaving you feeling satiated and inspired.
How do you unwind at the end of a busy day?
It may sound odd, but I’m often found fermenting something at 11:30pm. I love experimenting with my ferments and I find it helps me to unwind and feel grounded. I’ve currently got some rose hips fermenting – a rose hip honey ferment, rose hip kombucha vinegar and some in brine to use in other things. I’m experimenting with kimchi adding in some fermented watermelon hot sauce and chipotle chilli flakes and I’m also experimenting with fermented pumpkin insides for an upcoming project. I also have my master tonic on the go which is full of all sorts of immune supporting ingredients like onion, garlic, rosemary, horseradish, orange and thyme fermented together, which I make into a syrup with raw honey. I use it as an antimicrobial-rich tonic to fight off any coughs or colds; it’s great for kids too.