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What do people working in the food industry wish they could tell their younger selves?

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5 min read
Two girls celebrating exam results in school corridor

It’s A Level results day on August 18, which we know can be a daunting time for a lot of UK-based students. If you are looking to enter the food industry, we have some advice for you.

In recognition of the day, we wanted to share the words of wisdom from guests that have featured in our Career Conversations podcast series. We asked them: “What do you wish you could tell your younger self?” 

Hari Ghotra, Food and Beverage Development (Global Lead), Virgin Atlantic

“When I was younger, like a lot of people, you feel that the choices that you’re making are going to define everything that you do. And I think I would just say to my younger self, it’s okay, things will change and things are going to change. I’ve had three separate careers in my lifetime, so those decisions that you make at 18 are not going to be with you forever more. So give yourself a little bit of breathing space and go with where your heart tells you to go. Because if you love what you do, then the rest is easy.”

Dominique Woolf, cookbook writer and entrepreneur

“Well, I think there was a lot of frittering of youth in my 20s. I was pursuing music, but I probably could have been a little bit more focused and driven, but I in no way I wish I’d got into food earlier. Talking about working for a big food company, if I was in my 20s going to work for a food company would have been amazing. And I know that a lot of entrepreneurs have had that experience and that would have been a great thing to have done.”

James Forsyth, Team Chef, INEOS Grenadiers

“I would tell my younger self to pace yourself. Take gradual steps. Take small stepping stones to your end goal. I went from working in a one rosette country restaurant straight into a two star Michelin and one of the best restaurants in the UK. And that’s an absolutely momentous step in terms of cooking ability. And it was a baptism of fire. Working at that level, ideally, I would have had another couple of restaurants and worked my way up to a two star restaurant. Because my time sort of ended in a bit of burnout after a couple of years. It’s not fun when you’re a keen, enthusiastic young chef, to be exhausted in that way. So I’d say take gradual steps. The goal is always going to be there, but just make sure you achieve that goal by thinking about yourself and thinking how to get there in the best possible condition.”

Jessica Pinnick, Brand Manager, Belvoir Farm

“What I’d love to tell my younger self is five years plans are not locked in. Everybody always asks you that question, what’s your three year plan? Or what’s your five year plan? And you set yourself these goals and then all of a sudden that time catches up with you and you go, ‘Oh, my God, I have not achieved this thing by this date in my life’. And that used to be really scary. I think just because your plans change and your original plan doesn’t always materialise, it doesn’t mean that you failed. I think it’s so important to be curious to try new things. And never underestimate the value of networking. The amount of times when you realise it’s a very small world that we live in and all of those experiences and those learning opportunities that you get, might mean you meet somebody who opens a door that you didn’t otherwise know exists. And for me having that locked in five year plan, I wish I’d have gone back to myself and gone ‘it doesn’t matter just just try it and see what happens’. I still need to give that advice now.”

Marie Wright, President, Creation, Design & Development and Chief Global Flavourist, ADM

“If I could go back, I would say have more self-belief, and take more risks than you did. I think I was a little slow in making my big jumps. I wouldn’t change careers, I love the career, but I could have done other things too. I love what I do, but I think being a bit more free because what happens if you fail? You learn from it, and you do something else or you do it better. I was afraid to fail when I was younger, but now I’m probably failing a million times a day and learning from it. But we learn from that so I think I think that’s the most important lesson probably for me, it’s not being afraid to fail.”

Micah Douglas, Content and Community Manager, Tony’s Chocolonely

“Feel less pressure, be more confident about your ability, your natural strengths. Ask lots of questions, don’t ever assume and be less judgemental.”

Liz Littlewood, Lead Technical Manager for Ambient Foods, Non-Food, Beers, Wines and Spirits, Co-op

“Worry less about your career. It will evolve, it will take twists and turns but that’s ok. It’s ok not to know everything right at the beginning because it will happen.”

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