Industry advice from the Eat Out Food School’s chef Jason Whitehead

Eat Out was thrilled when Jason Whitehead took on the mammoth task of ambassador and mentor for the Eat Out Food School. Jason is a Cape Town-based chef, multi-award-winning cookbook author and a culinary consultant. He also owns and runs Canvas Cuisine, a wedding and events catering company based on Muratie Wine Estate. So who better to lend advice to those who are interested in starting a career in the exciting restaurant industry? Here’s what Jason has to say.

Jason Whitehead

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“If you think you have mastered the art of being a chef, hang up your chefs jacket.” 

What is the one thing anyone wanting to enter the restaurant and hospitality industries should know?

It’s not all glitz and glam – it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to make a success of any position you decide to pursue in the hospitality industry. The hours are long, especially in the beginning of your career, but remember the old saying “what you put into life is what you get out”. 

What was your biggest misconception about the field prior to entering it?

I can’t really comment on this one, as I grew up in the industry, with my mom owning restaurants, and my gran was the head chef of a big conferencing venue for many years, so I think it’s safe to say that I had no misconceptions.

What is your top kitchen or cooking tip?

Never skimp on quality ingredients. And don’t be scared to experiment – crazy ideas often turn into fantastic culinary creations.

What can always be found in your fridge and/or pantry, and why?

Salted butter and extra virgin olive oil (Morgenster olive oil being a personal favourite)

What is the toughest part of your job?

I honestly enjoy every aspect of what I do, but I guess it would have to be the quieter winter months. The hospitality industry slows down quite a bit and unless you have long-term clients to see you through these quieter periods (or a full-time job), this can be a bit stressful. 

What is your favourite part of your job?

Creating menus, for sure.  It’s a time when I get to be truly creative, which is my happy place. 

What made you want to become a chef?

Probably my gran. Even though she is now in a care facility, she still somehow inadvertently manages to run the kitchen there!

How did you find your style?

If you are a consultant like I am, your personal style is kind of irrelevant. For me, the most important thing when dealing with a client when you’re consulting is to understand the client’s vision and the current market trends and finding a balance between the two. In my personal capacity, I learned a lot through travelling, with my favourite culinary destinations being India, Thailand and France. 

Any tips for managing the long hours?

Suck it up, buttercup! You can’t be passionate about hospitality and expect to work from 9 to 5.  

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