Category Archives: Freelance

An apron is just a cape on backwards

Since I became freelance earlier this year, I’ve acquired several clients in the food industry. I work on the digital marketing so they can get on with the catering.

Working with food is more fun than working with government policy. A lot more gorgeous pictures; a lot less trolls. But rather than just posting food pics on social media to temp people to come to events, I wanted to get more in-depth content. I interviewed Marie Soh, the amazing chef behind sohMarie supperclub in Woolwich, to see what makes her tick and what tips she has for aspiring chefs. The full interview is below and it gave me some great content to break down into short posts ideal for social media sharing. The combination of ads and useful content seems to work well.

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Interview with Marie Soh

What’s your favourite type of food and why?

My favourite type of food is simple and hearty food. I love strong flavour in my food (as in aroma, taste and texture).

I love love love Italian and Japanese, pasta and ramen of any kind or, should I say, EVERY kind!

When did you first discover you love cooking?

When I watched my first few episodes of Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef. Something just switched in my head and I started my new adventure; I started reading and learning.

What’s your favourite London restaurant?

I would have to say the family friendly restaurants Buonasera in Clapham Junction and Chelsea. I have had many memories there and I love the simplicity and flavour of the food. Their prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is always buzzing and lively! I love that they top half of their pizza with garlic butter and the other half with tomato sauce.

What tips would you give to someone just starting their career as a chef?

Be open minded: Listen and learn constantly with open heart and mind, without judgement or prejudice. There is always something to learn – from your kitchen porter, veg supplier, waiter – all the way to your head chef

Be a family: You are going to be sharing a lot of your life, life’s experiences and knowledge with each other!

Always grow: In mind, heart and knowledge. This, in turn, will keep your creativity flowing

Last tip is to enjoy the whole adventure!

What’s your favourite kitchen gadget?

The disposable blue jay cloths that are used a lot in commercial kitchens. You can use them to soak up spills, wipe down surfaces as you cook/prep and to stem bleeds when I cut myself!

You can also place freshly fried foods on a brand new cloth to soak up the oil; likewise for poached eggs to soak up excess water before placing them on your plate. You cut them into small pieces to line herbs in containers to keep them fresh, and many more uses!

If that’s not considered a gadget, then I would say my Wusthof Compact Knife Sharpener. It’s small enough to use as a key ring, so it goes everywhere with me, but big enough to be found by my colleagues when I’ve misplaced it for the umpteenth time! It helps me have sharp knives to work with wherever I am!

Where do you like to go on holiday and what’s the food like there?

I haven’t been on a proper holiday in years! I would ask locals where they would go and follow the queues!

What do you do when you’re not cooking?

I love:

  • painting especially watercolour
  • reading – cookbooks, self help books, trashy romance, action, vampire romance!
  • working out
  • listening to podcasts on self-help

Do you have a favourite wine? What does it go well with?

I love sweet wine and my fav is Tokaji. It’s from the Tokaj wine region. People regard it as a dessert wine but I learnt recently that in Slovakia, it is served as an aperitif! For me, it goes with everything. I like to have it with ice, which makes it very refreshing! Sometimes I get creative and mix it with ice-cold sparkling water and sliced ginger.

What do you like most and least about your job?

Most: Being able to welcome people into a space of warmth and nurture, and share my passion and love for simple, delicious heartwarming food with them.

Least: Loading and unloading the dishwasher!

If you were talking to a group of students who were considering a career in catering what would you say to encourage them?

Go for it! You have nothing to lose. You can always walk away with your knowledge and experience, and apply it to something else!

What has been your worst cooking disaster and what did you learn from it?

When hot oil bubbled over the pan onto the stove! It is a humbling experience as my mistake could harm lives or cause damage to property. Never get cocky because nature (as in fires) is always unpredictable.

I learnt to think fast, switch off the gas and move the pan. Always half fill a pan and don’t put more than three pieces of food in to fry! Invest in an electric fryer.

How do you stay calm under pressure?

I consciously slow down my breathing, shut down my emotions, break things down to tasks and then get on and just do it.

I condition my mind to do what it takes to make that event a success. It may not be perfect but it is always a success: for me, for the team, for my guests and clients.

Where does your inspiration come from?

It comes from the word ‘family’. It’s my desire to create a family through sharing my love for feeding people and my passion for cooking.

I get my ideas from books, memories (mine or other people’s) visuals, nature, anything really.

What made you decide to start supperclub?

It was at the end of 2015, I was in a place of great uncertainty and change. I knew I had to do something more in 2016. I had toyed with the idea for a while but didn’t take any action because I believed I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t have the capital, I didn’t know of any venues etc.

It was the strength and tenacity of my boyfriend (who saw more than what I saw in myself) that encouraged me to take the first step. He is always there when I start to wobble – reminding me that this is only the first step, to build my self confidence, amongst other things, and that will eventually lead me to opening my dream space.

So I wrote to owners of cafés to enquire about renting their space in the evenings. I wanted somewhere within walking distance from home, that had a ready kitchen in a local community. Julia’s (at The Cornerstone Café) reply and subsequent continued support has helped me to open the supperclub, and this is where I am now  🙂

Image by Family Feedbag

Sole trader: the benefits of being self-employed

I left government at the end of March. My plan was to take a month off and then find another job in digital comms, maybe in the private sector. My month off turned into three months – I was having such a lovely break sunbathing, exploring London, doing DIY and catching up with all the things I’ve never had time for (eg making a will!).

Then Brexit happened and everything changed. The number of jobs being advertised plummeted. After such a carefree few weeks I was suddenly worried about the future. I decided to go freelance. It was a scary decision at first.

The hard bit was trying to register with HMRC. After clicking round in circles on for an annoyingly long time, I finally found the correct online form. (It’s called CWF1 v1.2. Before you start you need to know whether you’re a sole trainer or a new business, and what Class 2 National Insurance is. Sole trader and self-employed are the same thing – I’ve just saved you half an hour of confusion).

I got my first three clients through word of mouth: a chef, a life coach and a designer. I’m helping them with digital comms and social media marketing so that they can concentrate on doing what they do best. So far I’m really enjoying being a self-employed sole trader. So much so that I’ve made a list of the perks:

  1. I can work in my pyjamas. If I do feel like getting dressed, the dress code is very relaxed
  2. I avoid the rush hour commute – it’s a four second walk to work
  3. I get to start when I want to (10am! I’m not a morning person)
  4. I have the world’s best boss – I’m flexible, accommodating and generous with the tea and biscuits
  5. All my stationery is pink
  6. No fire drills
  7. Peace and quiet
  8. Afternoon naps
  9. I’m popular with my neighbours because I can take their deliveries
  10. There’s no firewall on my laptop. If you’ve ever worked for government you’ll understand what a joy this is

The best bit is that I’m working with people who are passionate about what they do and really want to succeed. I enjoyed the work I did in government but, as with any large organisation, I came across undynamic people who were there because it pays the bills, not because they have any interest in what they’re doing. It’s energising to be around people who’ve chosen a career they love.