Fran recently released her first recipe e-book, Fran’s Food Stories: Cooks Dinner, which features delicious plant-based dinner recipes for everyday cooking. We caught up with Fran to talk about her culinary journey and why she embraces a plant-based lifestyle.
What drove you to study the culinary arts?
"From an early age I have always been interested in food and cooking. I knew I wanted a career in the food industry but it wasn’t really discussed as an option at school and so I went to University to study Geography, which I loved, but it didn’t really point me in the direction I wanted. After University I sort of fell into Marketing within the food industry, but after 3 years I decided to quit my job, take the plunge and train professionally. If I didn’t do it then, I never would!"
Why did you choose to come to Le Cordon Bleu London?
"Le Cordon Bleu has an outstanding reputation worldwide and so it was always on my radar of schools that I wanted to go to. However, until the Plant-Based Diploma was offered there wasn’t really a course that aligned with my ethics, morals and lifestyle choices. The Plant-Based Diploma was the final push to convince me that this was the right school and the right course for me. When I saw the course advertised, I had signed up and paid the deposit for my place within 5 days!"
How did the knowledge gained from the Diploma in Plant-Based Culinary Arts help your career?
"The knowledge that I gained and the techniques that I learnt made me more confident in my ability as a chef. I have the knowledge to be more experimental without being overwhelmed, trying out ideas that before felt too impossible. Also, it always helps to have the Le Cordon Bleu name behind you when you are applying for jobs as it is so highly acclaimed!"
What does the growth in availability of plant-based cuisine and culinary training mean to you?
"I think it is fantastic to see how the professional culinary world are embracing the plant based movement. It is going to happen regardless and so it is really important that courses like the Diploma at Le Cordon Bleu are available. The increase in the availability of plant-based culinary training is only going to increase the quality and gravitas of this type of cuisine and make it more accessible for everyone. I always felt before training - and sometimes still do - that you aren’t a ‘proper’ chef unless you cook everything, but courses like this are definitely changing that perception."
What would you say is your most valuable learning experience so far?
"My career is still in its infancy so I have a lot more learning experiences to come, but so far I would probably say that it was the final practical exam for the diploma. Creating a two course meal from a limited list of ingredients to be served up within the time limit was nothing like I have done before. It was made even more intense with 15 others in the kitchen all trying to perfect their dishes too."
You have many strings to your bow as a chef, from food writing to private catering, but what is the best part of your job?
"My favourite thing about my job is the creativity that it offers. I am constantly thinking up new recipes and ideas for articles and so this is the perfect job for me. I don’t really work well with routine so I love that fact that every day is different. One day could be spent catering for a private event and the next could be recipe developing in my kitchen at home. It sounds cliché, but it really doesn’t feel like work when I get to do something that I love; cooking and sharing delicious plant-based food."
What would you say the best thing is about being a chef?
"The best thing about being a chef is the chance to inspire and encourage people to try different and interesting recipes. I would love it if everyone ate plant-based, but the reality is in our society it is unrealistic at the moment. So inspiring people to try just one or two recipes a week and for them to love and enjoy what they are eating is the best thing for me. When someone is surprised at how tasty plant-based food is having tried a recipe or dish of mine is music to my ears!"
What does Le Cordon Bleu represent for you in one sentence?
"Quality education with dedicated teachers in an amazing facility in central London."
What does your average day look like?
"My days can vary quite a lot at the minute due to the pandemic and lockdown rules changing. Usually it involves being in the kitchen developing recipes, but if I am not in the kitchen I am at my laptop writing up recipes, researching for future pieces or menu planning for a private client."
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
"Staying motivated and not procrastinating! Working for yourself is great…but you also have to be on the ball and motivated to get out there to create and grab opportunities for yourself when they present themselves."
What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
"The advice I would give to someone wanting to follow in my footsteps is to do your research; make sure the course you are picking is the right one for you. It is a big commitment and an intense 12 weeks but it is totally worth it if you want to pursue a career in the food industry. Don’t be scared to take on the unknown and take the chance...nothing changes unless change happens."
What inspires you every day?
"This is a tricky one as it depends on the day! Usually it is a combination of the people I am surrounded by, the food I have eaten out at restaurants or interesting ingredients I have seen in the shops. I love going to the shops or market just to have a wander around and check out any new product releases that might inspire a recipe."
Finally, what are your plans for the future?
"I love what I do and am so glad that I took the chance and applied for the Plant-Based Culinary Arts Diploma. My plans are to continue to gain experience, build my client base and my writing portfolio. I have a few projects in the pipeline including the release of my plant-based recipe e-book ‘Fran’s Food Stories: Cooks Dinner’ which is full of easy but delicious dinner recipes for everyone - plant-based or not!"
Find out more about the Diploma in Plant-Based Culinary Arts, our professional cookery courses and other culinary programmes to see how you can follow in Chef Fran's footsteps.