This week’s Flourishing Entrepreneur is Ceri Jones, Natural Chef and the creative mind behind website and seasonal eating app Natural Kitchen Adventures.
Ceri has been a friend for many years and we share a similar career path - having both worked in management for classical music orchestras for a number of years, before moving into work in food, health and wellness. I’m so excited to share with you her story and the things she’s learned along the way.
I’m going to be interviewing Ceri on my Instagram account live on Monday 15th April. Make sure you’re following to join in the conversation and to ask Ceri questions about her career change and discover more about the life of being a chef.
Who are you, what is your business and what job title do you have?
I’m Ceri Jones, my business Natural Kitchen Adventures Ltd. is a combination of retreat chef services, food writing (recipe development and sometimes photography), cookery teaching and events (such as supper clubs). I also own a recipe app.
I’m the founder (and only member) of my company so don’t generally like to use founder or director, but generally just call myself a Natural Chef, as that was my training!
What were you told about work growing up?
My parents were hardworking and both had office jobs, so this was largely the example set for me.
However my uncle was (and still is) a professional musician so vocational jobs were something known to me. I initially wanted to follow in his footsteps so I went to university to study Music, before I side-tracked to orchestral music management (an office job) for 10 years before deciding to retrain as a chef.
There wasn’t much advice out there for being a professional musician or music management actually, so maybe I’ve always had to seek out my own career development!
How has your mindset changed around work since then?
Working as a project manager of events, concerts and tours for such a long time has definitely set me up for the events side of my business now. I’ve brought many transferable skills, especially being organised and having to think on your feet when you’re working in a foreign country for the first time!
Even though it was an office job, there were many times when it was so much more than this – especially when managing concerts or on tour with the orchestra. So whatever capacity I’ve worked in, it’s always been more than a 9-5 so something I have to have 100% passion for. It was only when I realised that passion for working in music had gone that I realised I needed to retrain and do food!
I work in a freelance capacity for 2/3rds of my time now (I do have a salaried part time teaching job), and whilst freelancing was never presented as an option growing up, it was definitely something I learned about (perils and the benefits) from my 10 years of working with many freelance musicians.
How do you prioritise your health as a busy entrepreneur?
I try my best to exercise regularly, and of course eat the best I can. I found the first few years of my new career utterly physically exhausting and it’s only been the last year or so I’ve gotten back to regular exercise which has made me feel so much better.
I still have to push myself out of the door to the gym, I wonder if it ever won’t be a struggle! Goals to work on this year are improving the quality of my sleep. I am not a night owl (or a morning lark either to be honest), but I do look at my phone too much in the evenings.
How is your relationship with food? How does food feature in your life and what does it mean to you?
Food is obviously a huge part of my life! It’s what I do. I get really excited about seeking out ingredients, creating dishes, cooking them for people, taking photos and continuing the conversation afterwards. It’s not just about eating.
My relationship with food now, it’s the most solid it’s ever been. I did go through a few tricky years, where I was a bit controlling about what was on my plate, striving for nutritional perfection. Largely I now understand because I was going through a tough time emotionally (both of my parents were ill and passed away in my 20s).
What is your favourite meal, something you would recommend others learn to cook or prepare?
I don’t really do favourites, because there is so much out there to try! For a simple home cooked meal I really enjoy some roasted chicken thighs (skin on), with a pile of roasted vegetables and some kind of sauce like harissa yoghurt or pesto. With my chef hat on it’s a bit different. If eating out I tend to lean towards a seafood dish I wouldn’t cook for myself.
I think everyone should learn how to make a basic curry, frittata or baked fish. These are my staples!
The voice in your head - we’ve all got one! What negative thing does it say to you most often and how do you deal with it?
Mine is usually telling me, I’m not good enough, or that I could do be doing better. Usually in comparison to what someone else is up to.
It’s terrible isn’t it? I just try and repeat to myself that I am good at what I do, and I need to keep doing ‘me’. Hopefully one day it will stick.
Success – what does it mean to you? What is your version of success?
Success to me isn’t about the big victories, and for years I thought it was, for example I could only be deemed as successful if I had a billion instagram followers or a bestselling cookbook.
I’ve since come to realise that if I’m still here doing what I love, and making enough money to live off year on year (5 years strong now) then that sounds pretty successful to me right now.
Self-care. What does it mean to you and what self-care practises do you have to look after yourself as a busy entrepreneur?
Self care is something I felt a bit icky with for a long time, because it felt indulgent. It isn’t just about having a massage, a day off, or an evening in front of Netflix.
These things all help of course, but real self-care to me has involved working on what’s going on in my brain, working on how to speak to myself in a kinder way. I am definitely a work in progress.
What one book, video or podcast would you recommend to entrepreneurs?
I was about to write I am not a good reader, then realised that’s my “I am not good” voice again, so I’m going to rephrase that as “I prefer to listen to podcasts, over reading” and am currently enjoying quite a few.
I usually listen to the science of social media, by Buffer for the latest in SM tips (and it’s only 15 mins long), and then there are others more geared to food, blogging etc which have been useful too. I love Eat, Capture Share by The Little Plantation and also Hashtag Authentic by Sara Tasker.
What one tip, quote or resource would you share with other entrepreneurs to help them on their journey?
“Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they're meant to be.”. B.K.S. IYENGAR
I actually heard this in yoga the day after I got made redundant from my first chef job, and its stuck with me ever since. Embrace the changes life throws up (and there are many as an entrepreneur)!
Find out more about Ceri and Natural Kitchen Adventures on her website
Follow Ceri on Instagram @CeriKitchen
Follow Ceri on Twitter @CeriKitchen
Follow Ceri on Facebook @NaturalKitchenAdventures