With my last blog, I left you with a picture of my life as a chef with three children – living on
coffee, sleeping all day Sunday and with my knees giving way – as no longer sustainable.
So, building on a new-found passion for education from my teaching course, I went back to
University of Huddersfield. I enrolled on a degree course with every intention to learn more
about the food industry and make a permanent career change to become a NPD (new
product development) Chef with one of the big food manufacturers in the North.
I loved my time at Uni being a mature student, taking serious advantage of the fun on offer
as well as all the learning. I set up a Surf Society, secured a grant from the Students’ Union
to buy surfboards and wetsuits and regularly drove 15 of us students in a minibus over to the very cold North Sea at Cayton Bay in East Yorkshire or to the slightly warmer Irish Sea at Cable Bay on Anglesey. Apparently, I regretted wearing a wetsuit for a fancy dress pub crawl in town, but that’s just what Mary says…I don’t remember!
As for the learning, modules included food science and safety, as well as food management
and marketing. This was a sandwich course (pun pre-prepared) and I spent my year in
industry doing NPD for a serial entrepreneur seeking to open a chain of Chinese takeaways
with innovative products such as chicken balls on a stick. I didn’t like the work, but at least I
had the experience. And all the way through, I was still cheffing one or two evenings during
the week, but my knees were strengthened from the regular surfing!
Living on a student grant (yes grant, that dates me), extremely part-time earnings and Mary’s
freelance work was very tight and when Mary saw (and then secured) a ‘proper’ full-time job
in Devon, the lure of a warmer sea was part of the attraction to move. I was able to transfer
to University of Plymouth, attending their Seale Hayne campus, where there was much more
of a rural focus to learning, including a finance module all about the production costs of
wellington boots. True. I also worked on a ‘knowledge transfer project’ with Clive’s Pies in
Buckfastleigh, researching the potential to go into the organic sector, which was a turning
point both for them and me (as you’ll read later). It was quite a challenging year, still cheffing
a couple of nights a week and with my degree classification completely dependent on just
my Plymouth modules, but I was delighted to graduate with a very good BSc Hons in Food
Photo: showing my Mum round Seale Hayne
Next chapter: The Riverford years