My Top 5 Career Moves: Laoise Casey
Thinking of moving into a career in food and drink? Laoise (it’s pronounced Lee-sha) Casey, a chef, food stylist, recipe developer and writer, shares the 5 important career moves that got her to where she is today.
Laoise told us, ‘I now spend my days in the kitchen, where I’m happiest but my life used to be quite different when I worked in HR. There was always a niggling voice in the back of my head that told me it wasn’t what I was meant to be doing. I spent a lot of time ignoring it. Then in 2012, I moved to London to follow my dream to learn how to cook professionally.
Since I changed careers I’ve been lucky enough to gain a lot of different types of experience and work with some of the loveliest people in the industry. For me, cooking has always been a way to relax and look after others and myself so getting to do this as a job doesn’t feel like work most of the time. I started by completing a culinary diploma then went on to work in restaurants while also working freelance as a food stylist, recipe developer and writer.’
HR job and changing career
‘I studied psychology and then a Masters in Business followed by working for Lloydspharmacy as an HR Manager for 7 years, in Ireland. Growing up I was always more academic so it seemed like a natural career progression. Eventually, though, cooking started to become more and more important to me. I spent most of my weekends and evenings reading cookbooks and experimenting with dishes.
After a lot of soul-searching and planning, I moved to London in 2012 and completed a diploma at Leiths School of Food and Wine, where I would eventually end up teaching my own class. While I now have a completely different career I still learnt a lot in HR that has been useful in cooking e.g. organising and planning – particularly helpful in my latest role.’
Dip & Flip
‘While I was at cookery school I realised that I needed to gain as much practical experience as possible. The inimitable landlord Oisin (known to most as Osh) Rogers gave me my first kitchen job in London – working at The Ship in Wandsworth in 2012 and then asked me to set up the kitchen in Dip & Flip when they opened their flagship site in Battersea.
So ensued a baptism of gravy fueled fire where I learned how to set up a kitchen while juggling gigantic vats of stock-becoming-gravy and figuring out the quickest way to serve all the delicious burgers to hungry South Londoners.’
Dip & Flip, various locations
The Dairy, Clapham
‘I hadn’t planned to end up working restaurants, but then in 2012, I was given the opportunity to work a few days in The Dairy in Clapham, set up by Robin Gill, who now has three restaurants. When I walked into the kitchen I realised that it was where I was meant to be and ended up staying three years between there and Paradise Garage.
Working for Robin (a brilliant mentor) showed me the importance of focusing on simple ingredients and treating food with respect. I learnt how to combine classical cookery techniques with new ideas and every day discovered how little I didn’t yet know about cooking – I think that still always continues!’
The Dairy, 15 The Pavement, SW4 0HY
Food writer, The Evening Standard
‘When I was cooking back in Ireland, I started a blog (like so many others) and it turned into a record of my work experience in kitchens. One of the sections was on lunch boxes I used to make for work. For me, part of the enjoyment of cooking has always been about sharing it with other people. There is something lovely in how a meal can bring us together.
I was lucky enough to be able to turn this love into a weekly column with the Evening Standard’s The London Lunch Box, which turned into a column about my favourite London restaurants and recreating lunch recipes based on their signature dishes. As well as food writing I’m also a food stylist and recipe developer.’
Development chef, Marks & Spencer
‘In late 2017 I started what is ultimately my dream job. I currently work as a development chef for Marks & Spencer, which feels a bit like being in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory but with more fruit and vegetables. My role is to create recipes using our products for our customers across all our channels, e.g. our Cook with M&S app, Instagram, website and in-store newspaper.
Every day I’m cooking with our products to create easy and delicious recipes for our customers. Most of the time it doesn’t feel like a job at all – I feel very lucky to get to do what I do. Every day I learn something new in cooking – I hope that feeling never goes away.’