Chef’s Culinary Portfolio
As part of our series on marketing yourself to potential employers and partners, we previously wrote that there are three factors, or key ingredients, that go into making a great impression as an up-and-coming chef in today’s new normal, namely; your Curriculum Vitae, your Culinary Portfolio and your Online and Social Media profile. We addressed the ingredients for a great CV in our last post. Next up, the perfect accompaniment to your resumé is a professional Culinary Portfolio – a way to elaborate on your qualifications and share examples of your work.
Whereas your CV details your skills, experience and qualifications, a portfolio provides some context, practical demonstration and a visual impression. Think of it as your chance to tell your story – to add personality and emotion to your career progression and to help your potential employer understand your passion and curiosity for cooking. Let’s face it, everyone likes a good story – but every good story has a structure that is easy to understand and navigate, along with well-defined sections and something the audience can relate to emotionally (and professionally).
It’s a good idea to use social media platforms and a personal website to build an interactive and dynamic portfolio. A platform like Instagram will allow you to add imagery and videos and split them into great stories, and website / blog content building platforms allow you to create a professional-looking website on your own web domain with very little technical expertise required. We’ll address these tools in our next post.
Importantly, you will want to design a printed or pdf file document that includes your details, work, credentials, publicity and food images. Creative content websites such as Envato Elements and Shutterstock have some excellent portfolio templates that you can download and populate with your information and photography. It’s even a good idea to download a great looking PowerPoint template that can then be easily saved as a pdf. Alternatively ask a designer or bribe a DTP design student to help you put your professional portfolio together.
Every chef portfolio needs some introduction – who are you, what can you do, where have you come from and what you hope to offer your future employer. Avoid using cliched descriptions like, “I am passionate about food and people,” or “I’ve wanted to be a chef since I was 3 years old!” Ask a mentor or a senior chef for examples of phrases that would irritate others in the industry the most.
Is there a specific cooking technique, ingredient or style that you’ve been working on? Describe it in detail, then add a few photos to show your progression. Employers are not looking for perfection. They’re looking for someone who is interested in learning and developing – someone who’s curious about new ingredient combinations and untried techniques.
Photographs of the food that you’ve created – both staple and experimental – will have a huge impact and it is the quality of the photography that will most set you apart from any competition. Ensure that you take photos that do your food justice, with good lighting, a thoughtful setting and a composition that really brings the colours and textures to life. A culinary portfolio isn’t complete without food images so it’s worth investing time and money to get this part right. Be sure to include yourself in some of the photography so that the reader can see how much you enjoy your creative work and to prove that you haven’t plagiarised the images. Make a good impression by ensuring that your garment are clean and neat in the photos. Wearing a Face Mask in some of the shots will show that you have been working on your craft during lockdown.
Include your recipes and menus and focus on those that have significance for your own development, such as award winners or recipes and menus are unique within the industry. Here you can put your innovation and creativity on display.
Don’t be shy to show off your achievements, publicity and references - Anything from having a recipe featured in a magazine, to appearing on a TV show or a YouTube channel. Include any references to your skills and abilities and include evidence such as images of articles, links to publications or source quotes.
A great culinary portfolio combines your professional experience, achievements and compelling visuals to create a persuasive story of your qualifications, passion and strengths. Whether you’re hoping to advance your career or you’re looking for your next move, a well-crafted portfolio can set you apart from the competition and help you land your dream job.