Name: Zoe Simons
Job title: Senior Brand and Innovation Development Chef
Company: Waitrose - Bracknell Head office
Education: Newport Free Grammar School - Chelmsford Catering College
When you are a development chef, thousands of people can be picking up your product in one evening and I love that.
I started in the food industry at a young age and spent my fair share of time in various kitchens. I was already working in food development when I took part in Masterchef. Being a development chef is an incredible job for someone in my field of work. You can actually enjoy food as you have time to perfect, absorb and appreciate different cuisines, trends and variations of dishes. I found when I was in the restaurant industry, serving a few hundred covers a night, I almost lost the love and passion as I was burnt out from the long hours. When you are a development chef, thousands of people can be picking up your product in one evening and I love that.
To inspire innovation and help to grow product ranges with new ideas and techniques, as well as creating first- to-market products.
The best thing about my role is no two days are the same.Today, my day looked like this:
My Nan is an incredible cook. I remember, from a young age, spending weekends in her kitchen watching, learning and doing lots of eating! I struggled to choose a career path towards the end of school. I already had a job in the local pub working in the kitchen, but it never clicked that my skills in this industry could lead the way to my future career. After many discussions with my family, and especially my Nan, asking for advice and guidance, I decided to go to catering college.
I have worked for different companies over the years and have always had to fight for innovative products.
To be able to sit in a room with people who love food and when you give them a wacky idea, they want to know more. I have worked for different companies over the years and have always had to fight for innovative products. At Waitrose we live and breathe food, not just when developing new products, but the whole journey from brand to packaging to technology and everything in between.
I think most shoppers probably wouldn’t think that to get one product on the shelf can sometimes take up to a year and an incredible of amount of people working behind the scenes. Also, the care and attention that goes into every product you see in our shops - nothing ends up there just by chance. There is a vast amount of knowledge and a number of skilled people that work on the ranges at Waitrose - it’s quite a journey to be involved in.
I was told at school that I wouldn’t amount to much as I didn’t have much interest in the core academic subjects.
My first piece of advice would always be don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. I was told at school that I wouldn’t amount to much as I didn’t have much interest in the core academic subjects. It wasn’t until I got to catering college that I found my feet. I started off as a pot wash, then worked my way up to becoming a chef. It’s a wonderful industry to be in, full of inspiring and talented people, but the most important thing that I have learnt is don’t be afraid to start at the bottom.
I’ve got my dream job. My ultimate career dream has always been to work for Waitrose as a development chef. Having said that, one day retiring somewhere in Italy with my own vineyard and bakery sounds like a good option too!
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