He who can, does. He who cannot Teaches!

I’ve heard this saying a few times and pondered its meaning. Bernard Shaw, wrote it in his play “Man & Superman” I can see how it applies to a few, but not to the masses of dedicated teachers out were drawn in to the world of education with a passion to teach.

I’d say I was a successful chef, right from the beginning I worked my way up at every job.
My first full time work after catering college, was at a hotel in Beccles where I worked my way from waitressing, bar work and a bit of cheffing to the full time sous chef position at 20. One of my main jobs was to look after the YTS & work experience students. That was the beginning of my passion to teach, to inspire and to share my knowledge with patience and understanding. What was really special was the feedback, the thank you letters and the ones who were inspired enough to take it up as a career. It gave me a great sense of achievement and from those early days I knew I wanted to mentor more.
Leslie Waters was the one who inspired me to teach, she worked for Leith’s as did I and taught at Leith’s school of cookery – I was lucky enough to go to a few of her demos. I knew then as I sat there watching her knock up ‘Delicious Desserts’, that that’s what I wanted to do.
Eleven years I spent as a chef in London and with great glee I told people I was leaving to move back home, retire and never work for anyone ever again. In my mind teaching was where I wanted to go.

I loved cheffing, it was something I was really good at, I’d built up a good reputation, worked with some amazing caterers from all over the globe and even trained further as a pastry chef.
But – I was knackered – Caterings hard and being a chef is physical, stressful and relentless – it kind of gave me up in the end. I’d do silly hours and come home just to sleep – exhausted.
So, on that last day – I ran up the road as fast as my little legs would take me and I never looked back.

Fifteen years I’ve been teaching now – and I love it. Adult education, family learning, demos & now my own cookery school.

Now here’s the crunch – I’m not blowing my own trumpet but I think I’ve got more than enough credentials with 30 years in catering, catering college, pasty school, cheffing, nutritional learning, running a cookery school, running a hospitality business, food blogging, recipe writing (published all over the shop), websites, catering events & pop ups, demos and training sessions plus I was born in a BNB, later my parents had a coffee shop in Oulton Broad where I’d work on my days off.

I say this because I have a gripe – – – not a grape a GRIPE!

In my days of Adult Education, I was sent the newbees, the ones who wanted to teach cookery. Sometimes, not always I was flabbergasted at the people who thought they could teach – one of them was ‘a bit of this & a bit of that’ type of cook, the sort that doesn’t weight the ingredients and didn’t even know how to use a pair of scales – she seriously asked me if she needed to write recipes for her learners. It’s like a maths teacher asking if they needed to add up! One woman burnt everything, I swear she couldn’t cook without exterminating every ingredient given to her.

It seemed they liked food, helped friends in their businesses, won a completion or two, had 15 minutes of fame, liked baking cakes, got told they were good, did a lot of dinner parties, used to be a teacher or a class room assistant, liked watching Saturday morning kitchen, there next door neighbour was a chef!!! – were once a cook in another life!!!!!
So, they thought they could make a career of teaching cookery – – maybe a dream like opening a café because you like making cakes but don’t realise what it takes to run a business, day in day out – but that’s another story.

Adult education opinion was any one could teach cookery – as long as you had a health and safety certificate – English teachers, Math teachers and even learning support assistants had a go – – I was horrified at some of the stories – what they were teaching, how they were cooking, the recipes they used, the lack of knowledge about food costs etc. etc. etc. – Less well-off family’s in the community got to make posh dinner party food with a budget of £40 – – like, they had that sort of money spare and wanted to learn how to slow cook a lamb shank for their single parented family of 1 adult and 3 kids under 6! Or they were taught how to make copious amounts of cakes and puddings when we were promoting healthy eating.
It did make me angry, it wasn’t that I wanted to be the only teacher but when you’re a teacher you want everyone to get good learning from other good teachers that have the experience & knowledge to do so. Its professional pride and the sense of responsibility to ensure learners get the best from each lesson, whether its your lesson or someone else’s.
Of course, I viewed my opinions to my bosses but it fell on deaf ears – – as long as they had health and safety all was well in the world of cookery.

To teach you have to have 3 parts, a bit like a vinaigrette – the absolute complete and utter knowledge of your subject, part two a passion and experience in your subject and part three training or experience in teaching with an enthusiasm and patience to want to teach.

So – maybe those who can, do, then do some more and those who cannot don’t really get away with it for long!

By Zena Leech-Calton ©
Love Norwich Food – – Love all food