It is amazing where a Chefs Academy qualification can take you. Meet Fritha Lambert, private chef to a fashion industry leader.
Fritha Lambert is packing her bags once again. She’s used to jetting off across Europe at a moment’s notice, arriving at a city apartment where she’ll stay for a few weeks at a time, cooking beautiful dishes which are then transported across town to wherever her boss happens to be working. ‘I’d never have thought I’d end up doing something like this!’ she says.
She can’t reveal the identity of her employer, suffice to say she’s high up in the fashion industry, but getting this job was a dream come true – and a dream that began at Ashburton.
Fritha joined the Professional Culinary Diploma course in 2012 after deciding to follow her lifelong love of cookery instead of taking up a place at university. ‘I loved the course and especially the mixed age range and different backgrounds they came from – we had an accountant, an IT consultant, and an ex-police officer’ she says.
‘I also have so much respect for our tutors; they are amazing at what they do. At the end of the course we had a lot of free rein, but we started by learning what they do and how they do it. And I still remember the stress when we first had to get a plate out in 10 minutes from scratch!
‘We also learned practical advice about being in a big kitchen – like making sure you get all your equipment out the night before and hide it somewhere in your area so you can get going first thing. It really made the difference when I started work, especially coming in at 7.30am when everyone would be crammed around the equipment cupboards.’
After graduating from Ashburton, Fritha went straight into the heart of the London restaurant scene as a pastry chef at the famous west-end restaurant, The Ivy. It was tough, she says, with long hours and every chef competing for their place in the kitchen. ‘It might seem glam, but it’s hot, and tiring work and burns become second nature.’
When she moved on to Gordon Ramsay’s Maze Restaurant in London as a pastry chef, she found her arrival coincided with the London Olympics. ‘I ended up working from 7.45am to 2am in the morning, then back the next day to do it all again.’
Despite the hardships, Fritha’s passion for cooking continued and eventually she made the decision to set up her own catering business. All was great, but it was about to get even better, after Ashburton contacted her about an intriguing private chef position.
‘Someone had approached the school about a private chef position and they sent the details on to me.’ Fritha had to jump through several hoops including cooking for the potential employer’s personal assistant, then making specific dishes for sampling. ‘And all this time I had no idea who the boss was!’ she smiles. ‘When I found out I’d got the job I put the phone down and danced around the house screaming with excitement. And of course I called my mum.’
Looking back Fritha says she has many happy memories of Ashburton. ‘I loved going to Brixham fish market at five in the morning, wearing suits like something from CSI, then going for a big fry up breakfast with the fishermen’, she says.
‘And the very last weekend we were there, we got a cottage by the sea and had all the chefs over and cooked for them.’ She adds, ‘I like being able to give pleasure from my cooking. It’s about giving people the opportunity to slow down and to take time to savour what they’re eating. And of course it’s always nice to get some recognition as well.’