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At just 24 years old, Jade Douglas is one of the bright young talents emerging from Make Venues,  and a big part of the Make Food brand which was launched last month by the business.

As a Sous Chef at the group’s Woodland Grange conference venue in Warwickshire, she is already bringing new ideas and contemporary thinking to the venue’s food proposition. A big part of Jade’s role is planning and preparing delegate food and she’s a massive advocate for local and ethical produce and is big on creative ideas.

We chatted to her about what it’s like to be a young, female professional chef in a male-dominated profession and sought her opinions on the future of event catering.

What made you want to become a chef? 
From an early age, my mum inspired me, by constantly cooking fresh meals every day. I used to bake a lot with her when I was younger, and this turned into a wider passion for creating great food. She then supported me when applying for work experience placements where I was lucky enough to work with some amazing chefs. From there on, I’ve worked my way up.

How do you form good relationships with local producers? 
We’re really committed to getting local food into our venues. It’s something that comes from the leadership team and is endorsed by all the chefs as it means fresher, more seasonal and less processed food. Better ingredients mean better food, and it also works for the environment as well; it’s a win-win solution.

In terms of working directly with them, I’m always keen to establish a close bond, if they deliver great produce we’ll support them, promote them and be loyal to them. We also need to make sure that if they bring in produce from other suppliers that they also follow our own ethics as well.

 Are you treated differently to your male colleagues?
When I first started out there were some very dominate characters in the kitchen. I watched and observed closely. Yes, a few of them were very ‘alpha-male’, but you learn to stick up for yourself. I’m a very strong and independent person, someone that has always been career-minded, but I’m fair.

What would you say to other young females who want to get into the professional kitchen, but don’t know how? 
Stay focused, study hard and throw all of your passion into it. Put yourself out there, apply for work experience jobs that you’d never even dream of getting – believe me, I didn’t think I would get the ones I did.

I wrote letters to some of my favourite chefs, Angela Hartnett, Gordon Ramsay, Jun Tanaka and Rachel Allen, and I got experience in all three places when I was 15 years old.

What do you think about the future of event catering?
I think the future of event catering will be the element of shock and surprise. Yes, walking into a room with gorgeous flower centrepieces is lovely, but customers love the theatre side of catering.

Maybe huge themed events with matching menus and cocktails, perhaps a secret garden event, or sourcing produce very locally and doing a farm to table dinner, with vegetable produce as the centrepiece.

The world we live in is very health-conscious, very ethically conscious and loves great experiences, it’s something as chef’s we can have a massive influence on.

What have been your most challenging and rewarding experiences of the job so far?
The long hours are a struggle for myself and the team sometimes, but I’m very motivating towards them and we all pull through together.

The business is also really supportive of things like mental health, stress, and staff welfare which is refreshing. The most rewarding experience from this job is exploring lots of different cuisines for new ideas, which is very exciting. Also training staff and watching them succeed within the company has been really rewarding.

 

Credit for this article goes to Meetings & Incentive Travel 

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