Opening a Cookery School in Lockdown

The challenge of Covid-19


In March, I was sent back to Scotland from the French Alps, where I was working as a personal chef in a chalet. I returned to an industry where no restaurants were open, let alone employing new chefs. I had previously been working underneath Tom Kitchen at the Bonnie Badger, top tier restaurants such as this were facing cuts backs and closure.

By July, lockdown had eased, and I secured work in the Scottish Highlands as a private chef in a mixture of country estates and shooting lodges. Initially, I was just pleased to be employed, especially in times like these when so many people are less fortunate. However, this satisfaction was tested. Leaving my girlfriend in a flat on her own whilst I worked long unsociable hours, constantly traveling across country, 100s of miles from home, I realised there was no work-life balance. Despite these concerns, I was glad for the employment, and truth-be-told would have continued had everything stayed the same.


Opportunity in adversity


After a couple of months of employment, the second wave of the virus hit us, and all my private chef jobs were cancelled. At this point I felt I had two options: change career and look for a job outside the hospitality sector or pursue my passion of teaching people how to cook. I wanted to set up a cookery school. Although 2020 has been a stressful year, one silver lining is the time we have been given. That could be hours saved on commuting, from furlough, or even from losing work. With the extra days I gained from jobs being cancelled, I decided to dedicate all my energy to set up a business that I believed in. Covid-19 was the catalyst for action that I probably would not have been brave enough to take in normal circumstances.


Support networks


I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of setting up a business alone, I needed help. Within 24 hours of starting I arranged a meeting with an old colleague, who passed on a vital lesson for the need of adaptability in the Corona culinary climate. Following this advice, I found prospective clients which were looking for a service I had not previously planned on offering, including an online cooking class for a dozen people. Although these jobs were not what I had planned when setting up the business, they were what suited the situation and allowed me to grow the business in a difficult time. I have realised teaching classes over webcam has great benefits such as not being limited by geography and bringing people in isolation together.


Sharing and socialising


Creativity through cooking has been proven to reduce depression and anxiety, an unfortunate by product of the socialising pandemic. Whilst adapting my work to suit this new world has been crucial for my business it has also given me the job satisfaction that I had been searching for, long before Covid-19 begun. The hospitality sector has been severely damaged however the social importance of sharing a meal will always remain intact. Humans are the most adaptive species on the planet, I have no doubt that the hospitality sector will recover, and we must continue to eat and cook well to help us through such extraordinary times.


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