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The place where nearly every chef starts is in the sink.

My first experience in the Hospitality & Catering industry was at 14 years old. I was working part time as a pot washer, the place where nearly every chef starts is in the sink - it gives you respect and perspective for everyone in the kitchen whether that’s the exec chef or the pot washer.

I started college at 16 years old not really knowing what I wanted to be, but I had tasted kitchen life and comradery and I loved it. I loved creating something that put a smile on someone’s face, and thought to myself “this is what I want to do”, making people happy - isn’t that why we work in hospitality anyway?

I have never stopped being in education. Since being 16 years old and never really enjoying school, I ensure I am always learning. Now at 35 years old (nearly!), I am studying for my Master’s in Food Science and Innovation whilst working full time as a Chef lecturer in further education.

I have worked in a variety of establishments within my career from Gastro pubs, Fine dining, 4-star hotels, Banqueting and retail, predominantly within the Patisserie, confectionary and Bakery sectors as this is where my passion lies. I love creating plated desserts, petite fours, pastries, and breads. Some chefs would think this is stressful, but to me I find it weirdly therapeutic especially making bread products, I find this great for my mental health, the feel, smell and textures of bread doughs and the Patisserie section is something I adore, and I am completely in love with! Don’t tell the wife though.

Last year, I also had the privilege of working as Assistant training manager with WorldSkills UK Patisserie and Confectionary team. Meeting and working with some inspirational professionals of the industry, training with our team and visiting countries and places I hadn’t been before which have reinvigorated my passion for this industry.

My biggest regrets in my career would have been not believing in myself and having too much self-doubt as well as not taking opportunities to travel and work in top establishments due to my own insecurities. If I could tell my younger self one thing it would be “You’re better than you think you are, don’t be afraid!”

Working with The Burnt Chef Project as an ambassador and Chief ambassador, is an absolute honour. Trying to eradicate the stigma attached to mental health in our industry is something this industry needs. I don’t want my students to leave college not knowing that it is ok to talk and that it is ok to not be ok sometimes, and knowing what to do when they have these feelings frequently.

I want this incredible industry to be sustainable and to be a career of choice for young people, not an industry that is smeared by negativity, otherwise this industry will not survive and that would be a travesty as it can be amazing!

I owe a lot to The Burnt Chef Project, as during lockdown I really struggled. My worst enemy has always been having to much time to think, questioning everything I have ever done in my career, and regretting not taking opportunities can really leave you in a dark place of negativity. During lockdown it was The Burnt Chef Journal Podcasts that really got me through as well as the ambassador network and training modules. When we could leave the house I would just stick on a podcast and go for a walk, I think listening to chefs I have always aspired to, talking about their on challenges with mental health and self-doubt really resonated with me and made me realise I don’t have to be perfect. I realised I suffer from imposter syndrome which is exacerbated by my own lack of self-belief, this during lockdown turned into anxiety, stopping me from sleeping and making me into an irrational and irritable person that I had never been before. In addition to The Burnt Chef Project, I also owe a lot to my wife for getting me through lockdown - having your best friend as your wife really helps.

I have also found that doing something that I love now and again for myself can really help, so my happy place is going to visit the sea, watching and listening to the waves wash in and out. Taking in a breath of fresh air and I feel I can really breathe again!

I implore anyone to do this, just go to the beach or the sea front, say “hello” to the sea and let it wash your troubles away - well it works for me anyway.

On a final note, F$%k stigma!


Simon Barton

Chief Ambassador - The Burnt Chef Project

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