We’ve partnered up with CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine) for the first ever HBC Bake Off on the 17th August. This week we interviewed Nena, a graduate of the CNM Natural Chef course to see how her studies have quite literally changed her life.
I’m Nena, a freelance Natural Chef and mum of 2.
As a freelance chef I do lots of different things including teaching cookery and fermentation, developing recipes for brands and other chefs, and working as an assistant food stylist, food writer and menu consultant. I left a career as a public sector consultant to retrain and while it wasn’t easy starting a new career, I haven’t looked back!
I am passionate about fermenting and love teaching people about food and how to eat better, particularly children.
I love tackling a cooking challenge and testing my technical abilities, as well as coming up with new food ideas. If I could be known for one thing in life it would have to be being a great technical cook with a knack for developing amazing, yet relatable, recipes.
I studied on the Natural Chef course with CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine), which involved modules on anatomy, physiology and nutrition as well as hands-on chef training.
My course taught me many skills, including the importance of prepping and planning.
Essentially, I learnt the art of mise en place.
This skill has definitely been the most important, as almost any job I do requires a good deal of forward planning and preparation.
My course also gave me more confidence to take more risks in the kitchen and to think more creatively about food and eating. I also found it really invaluable to learn about how to use food therapeutically and learning to cook in a way that optimises nutritional uptake.
It was also the first time that I studied whilst having children. You miss a lot of weekend time and your evenings are spent studying, but you learn how to make it work and when work doesn’t feel like work, that is a bonus!
I started the course because I wanted a complete career change.
When I started at CNM I was juggling a demanding job as a public sector consultant 4 days a week, but when the opportunity to leave my job came up and pursue my career in food, I took it! Albeit sooner than I had expected.
Thanks to my internship placements and my determination to make a career in food, I left the course with some great contacts, some of who I still work with now.
The course also provided me the confidence to put myself out there and say yes to a number of great opportunities, which I would have been afraid to do before taking the course.
Providing relatable information
I think there is a lot of information out there about health and wellness, some of which is conflicting or confusing.
When you’re working with people you need to be able to give them accurate information, but not overwhelm them.
It is important to provide information that is relatable, which can involving tailoring content and messages as appropriate for your target audience.
For example, I work with a lot of children and families, many of whom need help with the very basics, like just getting more fruit & veg into their diet. So the information they most often need is how to cook and eat more veg in a way that is both nutritious and delicious.
Preparation is key
I make lots of lists and prep sheets to keep track of all the tasks for a class or when I am cooking on set/for people.
I use commuting time to plan my teaching, organise shoot prep, do recipe research and for writing. I try to keep an organised diary, but that can be hard when your diary is in a constant state of flux, but I do what I can.
I pin down the certainties and try to work around those.
I also work days as well as part of my evenings. At the moment, there is very little down time as I am juggling a new career alongside family demands. I do manage to have a day off during the week to look after my 2 year old, but spend her naptime working. I love what I do, it’s both a profession and a hobby.
I squeeze in 2 exercise sessions a week—everything feels better after a bit of exercise.
I love to unwind after an evening of work by fermenting something—I find it relaxing.
I also bake to relax, but then again that all sounds much like work, but I love it and this is why I do what I do.