Hometown: Edinburgh, Scotland

 

About You

Tell us a little about yourself such as your first degree and any other qualifications, plus if applicable, the most previous job you have held or what you were doing prior to the course.

My undergraduate degree specialised in Chinese at the University of Edinburgh, but post-graduation I struggled to settle into an office-based job. After a few years, I went back to school to study for a professional Chefs Diploma and embarked on a career working in kitchens. I have been a professional chef for the past decade, beginning as an apprentice on the London fine-dining scene and working my way up through the kitchen hierarchy, and in various arms of the profession. After a move back to Edinburgh and a brief career break while I had my son, I went into catering and immediately prior to the course was working as Head Chef and Creative Director at a boutique, event catering company in Edinburgh.

How did you come to choose this course and why QMU?

Working as a chef I have always felt that food and cooking provide a wonderful opportunity for life-long learning, both in the kitchen and beyond, and I am particularly interested in understanding the broader picture. Over the years, in addition to my full-time work, I have been involved with a number of charities and social enterprises that in various ways use food as a means to improve people’s health and happiness. These areas of the industry are growing every year, and increasing awareness of the power of food to bring about positive experiences and impacts in communities. I wanted to apply a more academic understanding to things that I had experienced anecdotally or felt instinctively and came across the MSc Gastronomy while searching for courses that would allow me to consolidate my professional experience with a more formally studied perspective.

Why did you choose to study in Edinburgh/Scotland?

Edinburgh is my home town and I feel fortunate that the MSc Gastronomy, the only course of its kind in the UK, is taught at QMU, which is an easy commute from where I live. Additionally the paradox of Scotland’s wonderful natural produce contrasted with contemporary dietary, health and social concerns provides an interesting backdrop for food studies and a climate where innovative actors are pushing for change.

 

The Course

What did you hope the course would give you? Career change/progression? Continuing personal development? 

My main motivation for studying the MSc was personal development with a view to really informing my perspective and developing my understanding of the system and its challenges. I hope that a Master’s level qualification will lend credibility to my practical work history and that the multi-disciplinary nature of the developing field of Gastronomy will mirror my broad skill set in a positive way.

How did you find the work load? Could you comment on the support available to you?

I have been out of education for over a decade and not working in an environment where there was much need for critical reading or computer use, so I had some additional challenges to catch up to current academic practices, however I find the course online Hub and the library system user-friendly and the academic professionals attached to the MSc Gastronomy readily available with their support for specific queries. The workload has been quite varied but becomes very dense towards assignment deadlines. there is a high volume of reading for someone not used to reviewing text, but on the whole, it has been manageable for me as a single parent and a fantastic learning curve that I feel has brought my skill set much more up-to-date.

Are you working during the course?

I gave up my permanent part-time position not long in to the first semester of the course, as I was struggling to keep up with the work load at that time. From that period onwards I have maintained a relatively small amount of freelance consulting work that I can better manage around my studies, but will need to go back to some regular work once classes are finished and the dissertation period gets underway. I think it is possible to work whilst studying the course but better not too if the opportunity is there, as there is so much to get out of the course, there is always more reading you would like to do and its enjoyable to be able to really immerse yourself.
 

How do you think your QMU degree has equipped you with the skills/knowledge to development your career?

It remains to be seen how the MSc will impact on my future employment, but it has certainly allowed me the opportunity to give serious consideration to a breadth of topics that will inform how I behave and advocate around food in any future role.

What top tips would you give prospective PG students based on your own personal experience?

Make the most of it! Postgraduate study often requires a balance of work, family and study, but the more time you can allow to your study, the more you will get out of it. On the other hand, don’t be fearful, the opportunity to engage your brain in academic study again after years in industry can feel like a complete joy.

Life after graduation

What are your future plans in terms of career/ charity work/ further study do you have once you have completed the course .

I haven’t decided exactly what I want to do after being at QMU. To an extent it will depend on what work is available, but in the course of studying the MSc Gastronomy I have come across a lot of interesting projects that I hadn’t heard about beforehand and which I am following with interest and will perhaps be approaching after graduation. The Scottish Government has laid out its vision for Scotland’s journey to becoming a Good Food Nation and that is something I hope to be part of.

Gastronomy

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