3rd May 2017
I Can Be... a Chef
I can be meets jennifer mosely, head pastry chef at the modern pantry in clerkenwell, london
Have you always wanted to be a chef?
No, I only really decided that I wanted to be a chef about five or six years ago. I didn’t really have much knowledge about becoming a chef, at school I didn’t really know that it was something that I could do. I studied drama and university and then I worked in TV. I was a runner, mainly in programmes about food. I realised I didn’t really want to document food; I wanted to make it. I took a very long way round!
Once you had realised that food was what you were interested in, what was your first step towards getting into the industry?
Because I had worked on programmes like The F Word and Great British Menu I had met people and made a lot of contacts. I went to work at a few Michelin starred restaurants around London. I think I worked in ten altogether before one of them offered me a proper job.
What kind of things were you doing in those first jobs?
I did quite basic things and it was easy to learn on the job. I’m a pastry chef so that was what I focussed on.
Why did you choose pastry?
That was something that I had always done at home with my mum and my family and something that I had always been interested in.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
That’s quite a tricky question. My highlight so far is probably working here. I get a lot of creative freedoms and they have given me a lot of opportunities. They are very encouraging. It’s also really great to work for a female executive chef because that is quite rare as well.
I have never worked in a kitchen, but it is portrayed as such a masculine environment. How does that affect you?
It is very male. In one of the kitchens I worked in I was the only female chef. It can be quite difficult but I think it is quite difficult to be a woman in any industry. It has it’s challenges. Here it’s different because of Anna [Hansen, the executive chef at The Modern Pantry].
Do you find that she has a different approach to male chefs that you have worked for?
Yes I think so. There is more of a cohesive, team vibe that you might get in other places. In some kitchens that I have worked in there is more of an antagonistic vibe but here we are really encouraged to work together as part of a team. I think that is quite a feminine approach to the restaurant industry. I’ve always found it quite funny because the typical sexist comment is ‘get back in the kitchen’, but as soon as you enter kitchens on a professional level it is so male dominated!
There are quite a few women working here?
Yes, seven of our fourteen chefs are women.
Do you feel that being a woman has held you back personally in any way?
I think it is the same for any woman in any industry. It’s harder to be taken seriously. I always wonder, if I was a man would a particular chef have taken me more seriously or would this person have accepted my ideas? I think it depends on the person and you have to not let those pressures affect you.
What advice would you give to a girl who was considering becoming a chef?
Find what you really love about it and always concentrate on that. It can be a really hard job, the hours are long and you don’t have a social life. It’s not glamorous and you have to wear stupid outfits and always look a mess! You have to find what you really love about the job and concentrate on that. I think that if you are not passionate about it then you won’t be able to do it.
It seems like a real lifestyle choice to be a chef.
Yes, it definitely is. I’ve seen people come into the industry and not really be passionate. You can tell that this just isn’t their thing and they really struggle. You have to really like it to do this job. You have to think, I’ve chosen to do this job and that means I can’t see my friends every Saturday but I’ll fit people in wherever I can.
What do you have for lunch at work?
We eat at 11 and 5, which is generally the same in most restaurants. We have what is called a family meal, where you sit down with everyone from the restaurant and have a nice meal together. It doesn’t always work out that way because lots of the time we are all really busy so you will just grab some food and eat on your feet. In the morning we have eggs and toast, breakfast food. At 5 the guys will make up a meal from bits that we have that we need to use up so it might be pasta or vegetables. It’s not particularly exciting! In some places it is very bad but here it is quite good.
The creative aspect of your job sounds really fun. Do you get much time to experiment and create new recipes?
I mostly do that in my own time because we are so busy I don’t really get much time to stop. When I do occasionally get time, I will spend a couple of hours just trying new things and playing about. That’s probably the most fun part of the job, being creative and trying things out.
If you hadn’t been a chef, what would your plan B have been?
I don’t know. I think because I tried out so many different things before I decided that I wanted to be a chef, I know that this is absolutely what I want to do! Maybe I would have carried on working in TV and become a Producer or something. I really have no idea. I’ve found the right thing so I’m sticking with this!