“I turned a hobby into a career”
What has been your main occupation since finishing the course?
Cookery & Fermentation Teacher, Recipe Developer & Assistant Food Stylist
How much of a cook were you before starting this course?
I cooked primarily for friends and family daily. I was always feeding someone, but loved being in the kitchen cooking or baking.
What made you decide that it was for you?
The combination of nutrition and hands on cooking training. It also fit around my work and family commitments at the time.
What were your favourite things about the course?
I loved the topics that the course covered and we had some really great and inspiring lecturers. I also loved my cohort. I miss seeing them regularly.
What key skills did you learn on the course?
It gave me confidence to experiment and be creative (and not be afraid to fail). As well, it provided the opportunity to turn what was previously just a hobby into a career, which I never thought possible.
What did you find especially useful?
Being on the course gave me the leverage and confidence to approach people that I wanted to work with and being brave enough to do it when they said yes!
Where did you do your internship?
I did lots of different things for my internships. I worked in a pop-up, did catering, worked in a cookery school, assisted on cookbook shoots, tested recipes for cookbooks and as a chef a kid’s half-term/ summer camp (I later became their head chef).
What did you learn from the experience?
To be confident about what I did know and to be honest about what I didn’t, but to ask the right questions and always put in the effort.
Please give any examples of how you helped provide your hosts with a fresh take on healthy food, or otherwise benefitted them, and any feedback you got.
As the camp chef, I wrote the menus, which were largely raw and vegan. I not only prepared meals, but cooked with the children, so it was a combined sort of health education and chef role. And when working on a health-focused cookbook shoot I was able to explain the appropriate technique for sprouting seeds. As well, across several of my placements I was able to talk about use a number of ‘alternative’ or health focused ingredients. Each placement provided a different learning experience, all of which were extremely useful.
How are you using your CNM Natural Chef qualification?
I have set up as Nena Foster Food and provide group, as well as private cookery and fermentation classes. I’ve set up partnerships with Local Greens (a South London-based veg bag supplier) and Riverford (South East London patch) to provide cookery and fermentation workshops, as well as running my own which includes vegan baking classes, an afterschool kid’s club and more fermentation workshops. I also teach cookery to young families for an organisation call Lambeth Early Action Partnership (LEAP). When I am not doing those things I regularly work with veggie chef, Anna Jones assisting with demos and events as well as her weekly Guardian Feast column. I also regularly write recipes for Rude Health and take private commissions for cakes or small events. I am also in the early stages of setting up a food consultancy service with a fellow Natural Chef colleague to work with small restaurant and pub chains, cafes, caterers and brands to provide more appetising veggie, vegan and free from food options, so watch this space.
What do your friends/family/clients have to say about your new culinary skills?
I had a private commission for algae truffles which impressed a high street food retailer and I continue to get 5* reviews for my workshops. I feel very lucky to love and enjoy what I do, and to have people also enjoy it is quite surreal at times.
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