How to build a thriving career and global recognition

Meet Nena Foster, a qualified CNM-trained Natural Chef, food educator, writer and Functional Medicine Health Coach with a PhD in Sociology of Health & Illness. From graduation to establishing a thriving business, Nena’s journey in the culinary world is nothing short of inspiring.

In our interview with Nena, we delve into her daily life as a Natural Chef and gain insights into her remarkable career trajectory. With valuable advice for aspiring Natural Chefs, Nena shares her experiences, industry opportunities and essential steps to kickstart your own culinary business.

What inspired you to become a Natural Chef?

My journey began during my time as a public health academic and consultant, where I saw firsthand the struggles people face with their health. This ignited my desire to empower people to prioritise their well-being through diet rather than relying solely on medications. With a deep-rooted passion for cooking and a personal understanding of the transformative power of food, I felt compelled to pursue a more hands-on and creative path.

It was during a moment of reflection while on holiday that I stumbled upon the CNM Natural Chef course. This discovery perfectly blended my love for food with its profound impact on health. Upon completing the course, I ventured into various roles, including head chef at a nature-based children’s camp, recipe writer, food stylist and healthy eating educator in primary schools.

Throughout my journey, my main focus has always been on supporting individuals in making dietary changes that enhance their well-being. I emphasise the importance of adding nourishing elements to one’s diet rather than imposing strict restrictions. By combining coaching techniques with my Natural Chef training, I empower clients to find their motivation and make lasting lifestyle changes.

In my current work, I host corporate cook-alongs and provide personalised support to those looking to incorporate more plant-based ingredients into their diets. I strongly believe in the healing power of food and am dedicated to helping others unlock its potential for optimal health.

What did you enjoy most about the course?

The CNM Natural Chef course has equipped me with a unique skill set, allowing me to blend culinary artistry with therapeutic nutrition. Through this holistic approach, I strive to inspire people to adopt a lifestyle centred around wholesome, nutrient-rich foods that support their overall well-being.

The course offered a rich tapestry of experiences that truly ignited my passion for healthy cooking. One aspect that stood out to me was the fermentation module. It’s like a journey into the unknown, where every bubbling jar holds the promise of gut-health wonders. I’ve been running fermentation courses that are closely tied to promoting gut health and aiding individuals in prioritising their digestive well-being. Personally, delving into the transformative nature of fermentation has been incredibly eye-opening. The profound changes that occur during the fermentation process never fail to amaze me, and it’s a passion that continues to ignite my enthusiasm.

Exploring the medicinal properties of foods was equally fascinating. Learning about the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients packed into each ingredient was like uncovering hidden treasures. Sharing this knowledge, especially with eager young minds, brought me immense satisfaction. Children’s curiosity knows no bounds, and guiding them to understand the connection between food and well-being has been incredibly fulfilling.

Mastering the art of using alternative ingredients expanded my culinary repertoire Experimenting with various flours and egg substitutes opened doors to endless possibilities, allowing me to seamlessly adapt recipes as needed.

These experiences weren’t just about learning new skills; they were life-changing moments. With this knowledge under my belt, I’ve been able to push my career forward in the industry, and it’s opened up countless doors for me.

How did you build such a thriving career?

After graduating from the Natural Chef course, I was eager to dive into the industry and gain as much experience as possible. Proactively seeking out opportunities, I pursued various avenues within the culinary world, from food styling to recipe testing, and even secured some paid positions. By immersing myself in different roles and environments, I not only fulfilled my internship requirements but also built a valuable network of contacts. These connections became instrumental in launching my career post-graduation, opening doors to exciting opportunities and collaborations. While transitioning from academia to the culinary field presented its challenges, my proactive approach and dedication to gaining diverse experiences propelled me forward, laying the foundation for a fulfilling and dynamic career.

What does a typical working day look like for you?

As for my daily life as a Natural Chef, it’s anything but typical. Balancing multiple responsibilities, including recipe development, coaching sessions and food education programmes, each day presents new and exciting challenges. However, the underlying philosophy of cooking with whole foods and promoting mindful eating remains constant. Whether I’m in the kitchen creating recipes or teaching children about nutrition, I find immense fulfillment in sharing my knowledge and passion for healthy living. Ultimately, my journey from graduation to growing my business has been guided by a commitment to lifelong learning, proactive networking, and a deep-seated passion for empowering others through food.

What are the most rewarding aspects of being a Natural Chef?

The most rewarding aspect of my job as a Natural Chef is the profound impact I can have on people’s lives through food education and empowerment. It’s incredibly fulfilling to share my knowledge and understanding of food with others, whether it’s through creating recipes, working with clients one-on-one or designing food education programmes for children. I feel privileged to be able to impart this knowledge because I believe it’s essential for individuals to understand how food affects their health and well-being. By teaching children from a young age about nutrition and mindful eating, I hope to set them on a path toward lifelong wellness and healthy habits. I believe that empowering people with this knowledge is one of the most impactful contributions I can make as a Natural Chef.

What challenges have you encountered along the way?

One of the toughest hurdles I faced on my journey was dealing with exploitation in the industry. Being new to the industry, I often found myself in situations where my skills were sought after for exposure rather than fair pay. This made it hard to build a sustainable career as a Natural Chef. To overcome this, I had to carefully evaluate each opportunity, weighing its potential benefits against the risk of exploitation.

I constantly wrestled with the choice between gaining exposure and getting fair compensation, especially when approached by brands or individuals on social media. In the end, I realised the importance of staying true to myself and not compromising my principles for the sake of perceived opportunities. Making decisions based on my values and goals became key. Despite the temptation to accept every offer, I’ve learned to carefully consider the risks and benefits and choose what feels right for me, even if it means saying no to certain opportunities. By staying authentic and true to my principles, I’ve managed to navigate these challenges and build a fulfilling career as a Natural Chef.

How can new grads find their niche?

For new graduates entering the Natural Chef industry, the key is to embrace your uniqueness and leverage your existing skills and experiences. In an era dominated by social media and glossy images, it’s essential to step away from comparisons and focus on what makes you unique. Whether transitioning from a previous career or starting fresh, graduates can carve out a niche for themselves by staying true to their authentic selves.

What is your advice for aspiring Natural Chefs?

My advice for aspiring Natural Chefs is to be bold and brave in pursuing their goals. It’s natural to feel apprehensive, especially when facing a career change or entering a new industry. However, it’s essential to push past doubts and fears and take decisive action. This may involve reaching out to potential mentors or industry professionals, seeking opportunities for hands-on experience, or simply putting yourself out there and making asks. While the path may be challenging, with perseverance and dedication, you can overcome obstacles and carve out a fulfilling career that aligns with your aspirations and values.

Listen to Nena’s Podcast Episode

If you would like to learn more about becoming a Natural Chef or Vegan Natural Chef, get in touch at  or register for the next Event.