I love cooking. And everything that comes with it. It accompanied me wherever I went. It started in the little kitchen of my grandma’s garden, it came with me to the small and large kitchens I have shared once I moved out of my parent’s house and it became the best ice breaker at Uni. But it also was always a way of supporting myself financially throughout my education. Once dreaming of becoming a chef, it was quickly ruined by the experience I had in larger, industrial kitchens. Though I loved being around food, I felt very much detached from the actual product I was placing day in and day out on plates, venturing out to people I have never met and will never meet.
After graduating in an arts agree, I experienced first-hand what it meant to be a fish amongst many. I stumbled from one unpaid internship to the other, always being promised to gain full-time employment once the three months were over. Even though my passion for the creative industry never left me, I soon realised that I had to find another way of supporting myself, not just financially but also emotionally. I was scared at first that, having studied for five years, that my degree would be no use for me and that I had to go back into catering, the only other field I had relevant experience in. While clicking through one job advertisement after the other, I came across an advertisement by Skip Garden who were looking for a Café Trainee.
Hesitant at first about being front of house and in constant contact with customers, as I only ever experienced the sometimes rough nature of being back of house, I applied anyway. Not because I needed the money, but the job description was the first one I have read in a long time that actually cared about the person they would employ and what they could do for them, rather what the person could provide financially for the company. I also was intrigued by the concept of having a working vegetable garden in central London. Growing up in the deep countryside, big city and nature combined never seemed to be something that could work together.
Working at Skip Garden has taught me so many things, that it would easily fill another five pages. But most of all it has taught me that working together to achieve something, is the best feeling one can have. I felt no longer detached from the food I was cooking and the customers I was serving it to. Getting first hand reactions, rather than guessing by the size of the tip, if the customer was satisfied or not, gave me a huge boost of confidence, in my abilities in cooking, and in my general social skills. Working Front of House, being face to face with customers, does not scare me anymore. Even more, it is something I enjoy so much, that I want to gain more experience. I have realised that making mistakes is not a flaw but something to learn from. And most importantly, I came to the realisation that, even though my degree is in the arts sector, what I have learnt in the past five years can be applied to every stage of my life. My modules in management and finance helped me to work at the till, what I have learned in Governance, Law and People Management helped me to understand what makes a successful team and last but not least, my undergraduate degree in acting helped me to still be polite and approachable to customers and staff even when it wasn’t my best day.
My time at Skip Garden, while it only lasted for six weeks, made me understand myself a lot more, what I want from the future and what is important to me. Cooking will no longer be just a way of supporting myself financially. I will go on working for small charities concerned with supporting young people and creating an environment in which people are able to grow, with each other and themselves. It is now my aim to one day own my own small holding, combining what I love the most: the arts and food. I couldn’t have come to this conclusion, if it wasn’t for the generous, inspiring and in general amazing staff at Skip Garden. Without them I would probably sit in another unpaid internship without a clear aim.
So a huge heart-felt thank you to all of you. You made it the best job I have ever had.
Writes Ulrike Kunze (Skip Garden Kitchen Intern)