The end of school is nigh, and all of a sudden you feel like you’ve got 100 decisions to make. What do I want to do with my life? Do I want to go to college, or uni, or do I want to get stuck straight into work? It’s easy to feel lost when you don’t know what you want to do, or how to get there.

But while you have literally your whole life to make up your mind, a little bit of good advice can go a long way. So with that in mind, in a series of interviews, we’re speaking to women who’ve ‘made it’, and asking their advice on how to follow in their footsteps.

This week, we speak to Rav Gill, head pastry chef at Llewelyn’s restaurant in Herne Hill.

Describe your typical day

I start at 6:30 in the morning and on a long day, I get a break about 4pm. I usually go to the gym or something—I feel like I should because I eat so much sugar! I honestly start my day with a cookie—then I come back for 5:30pm and work until 11pm. I am usually here all the time, I even moved down the road so I do actually live here!

What’s the best part of your job?

Tasting everything! And having creative freedom to use everything I have learned over the years to create something new. When you see people eating the food or they post a little thing saying how much they loved your food online, it’s so satisfying. Also, as a chef you can literally travel the world. I work at Llewelyn’s full-time, but I also freelance for different companies so I cook for VIPs and families on my days off. The money is finally nice—it does get good when you stick it out. You can also use your knowledge to be a recipe or food writer, or a food stylist too. There are so many different avenues you can go down.

Are there any bad parts?

Long hours, which means you don’t get to see your friends and family that often, and having a relationship is hard—unless they’re a chef, but you don’t want to date chefs, they’re all crazy! You become so close with your colleagues, though, which is nice. I now have friends all over the world, it’s awesome. You also get so many perks! I get to eat in lots of restaurants as I know everybody in the industry. Plus, you will never be out of a job. Everybody is looking for chefs, especially for pastry chefs—I know I’m plugging the pastry!

How did you become a pastry chef?

I actually did a psychology degree in Southampton, and I was meant to do a PhD, but last minute turned it down to be a chef. When I did my degree I just spent the whole time cooking for other people and I realised that was more what I wanted to do. I graduated, then worked in a chocolatier and saved up to go to Le Cordon Bleu in London, to train to be a pastry chef. Now I’m head pastry chef, but it took a lot of time and hard work.

Have you always loved cooking? Why pastry?

Yes, but I was so bad at it! Up until I was about 19. I do everything now, but I love pastry most—I like the finesse of it. I think because I have such a sweet tooth, I am so much more interested in it. Whenever I have a meal, I always obsess over what I’m going to have for dessert.

Wow, they are long shifts!

It’s quite typical to work around 80 hours a week—when you start out as a chef you have to know that your social life is gone. But I think a lot of restaurants are changing that now. At St John I only did 48 hours—it depends where you are. Generally the higher up you are, the longer the hours.

The Big Question: uni or no uni?

If you’re serious about doing it I would say so. You can’t really just pick it up, unless you’re willing to do loads of reading, because there’s so much precision. It can be quite scientific. There are three levels of diploma you can do: basic, intermediate and superior. You could get away with just doing basic because to be honest, no one is really looking at your CV—as long as you know the basics and have enthusiasm you should be fine! Enthusiasm is the most important thing.

What’s your favourite pud?

Anything with chocolate. My sweet tooth is SO big, there isn’t any dessert I don’t really like! Unless it’s savoury. I went to a super posh place recently and ordered the cheesecake, and it was actually just cheese. I was so disappointed.

If you could give one piece of advice to your 14-year-old self, what would it be?

I would tell myself to not be so fearful of following a creative path in life, and not to listen to my food tech teachers, who told me I was rubbish. They were wrong!

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

@EllieCostigan

The end of school is nigh, and all of a sudden you feel like you’ve got 100 decisions to make. What do I want to do with my life? Do I want to go to college, or uni, or do I want to get stuck straight into work? It’s easy to feel lost when you don’t know what you want to do, or how to get there.

But while you have literally your whole life to make up your mind, a little bit of good advice can go a long way. So with that in mind, in a series of interviews, we’re speaking to women who’ve ‘made it’, and asking their advice on how to follow in their footsteps.

This week, we speak to Tine Bladbjerg, jeweller and owner of A L’Etage 2.

How did you end up as a jeweller?

I always wanted to do something creative, I knew that much, I was fortunate that my parents supported that idea and they found me a jeweller I could do work experience with when I was 16. I was hooked. I was at the bench and they showed me how to do it, on the job. I finished school, took a year off and went to art college in the evenings to build up my portfolio and learn to do life drawing, then I got into college in Rochester in Kent. That’s how I ended up in England (I’m Danish, but grew up in Belgium). When I finished college, I moved to London and shared a workshop with two jewellers, then last year opened my own shop.

What are the best bits of the job?

I like to do a bit of everything. I’m quite enjoying having the shop, it’s been a good move for me. I sell my own pieces that I make in the workshop at the back of the shop, but I also sell other people’s work and when all the stuff came in to sell it was like Christmas—even if I can’t keep it! I still like the making and I still like buying the gemstones, that’s always nice.

Are there any bad parts?

A lot of creative people don’t necessarily like to do bookkeeping and stuff like that. When I first started I wasn’t sure if I was going to sell directly to the public or through shops and I didn’t enjoy knocking on doors very much, but some people don’t mind that. It’s up to you how you do it. Sometimes customers can be tricky! And there are a lot of jewellers out there—competition is very steep and you don’t always get into the shows you would like to. That can mess up your year and getting the rejection letters isn’t enjoyable. But you just have to keep going, and get back up.

The big question: uni or no uni?

I do know self-taught jewellers, but I think it’s good to have some kind of training—whether college or university or, if you’re lucky enough to get one, an apprenticeship. There aren’t many of them but they do exist, The Goldsmith Company do pre-apprenticeship courses too.

The thing about being a craftsman or an artist is, people often think that it’s something you do for fun but actually you have to do the business side as well. You need to have the skills to be able to do it, and you need to be thick skinned. When I came out of college I worked part time and I think that’s a good way to do it—going straight from college and thinking you can make a living self-employed is unrealistic. When I finished college, I shared a workshop with two older people who had been in the trade a long time, so they could advise and mentor me in a way.

I would say do any work experience you can get, even if it’s not paid. It’s because I did that I was able to get part-time design jobs for some quite big companies. You have got to be willing to put the work in. In some ways, it’s more fun to keep it as a hobby, because you only get to do the fun bits and there are no time constraints—for me, there’s always deadlines and there’s never enough time.

What sort of skills do you need to be a jeweller?

It’s partly design, partly making, so you have to learn the traditional way of painting up the jewellery, and how to make the pieces up. It depends what kind of business you want to be: if you want to design and make your own stuff, of course you have to know both, but I do know jewellers who just make other people’s work—maybe for a stone dealer or designer, or just people who come in with ideas but may not have the skills to make it. I like to do both.

If you could tell your 14-year-old self one thing, what would it be?

You’ve got to follow your dream, but be realistic. If someone offers you help, take the help!

@EllieCostigan

It’s time you started celebrating your period, guys. Sign up to bettybox RN and get all your tampons and pads, beauty products, sweet treats and loads more cool stuff delivered to your door, every single month. We know. It’s totally awesome. 

Image: Katie Edmunds