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Evelien de Bot

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher or a cook. In fact, there is a home video of me when I was 4 on a family holiday, wearing ski goggles, saying that I wanted to help cut the onions because I was going to be a cook when I grow up.

I started to pursue a teaching career, but it wasn’t for me. Then the opportunity came when I was working in a temporary role as an untrained chef on the site of an FMCG organization in Rotterdam. Sodexo provides the food services for this organization and offered me a permanent position.

When I joined Sodexo, I was the only woman on the team. All my colleagues were male and had more than 20 years of experience. I felt like the little sister in the kitchen.

At first, I felt insecure. I am a very performance driven person and I would feel flustered when I was given some negative feedback. But my colleagues explained that work is work, and that I shouldn’t take comments personally. It also took me a while for me to learn to accept the compliments and realize that I truly have culinary skill. 

Looking back, I feel that as a woman in a restaurant kitchen you do have to work a little bit harder, it’s mostly a male dominated industry. It’s important to have the confidence to stand up for yourself and not to take any feedback to heart.

I put all my love into every dish

Evelien Time lapseOn this site, we served up to 900 meals a day, always with fresh ingredients. I prefer working with savory dishes; extravagant salads and meats with sauces. One of the things I enjoy the most about my role is making a whole meal from just one ingredient. For example, I once made hot tomato broth served with room temperature tomato tartar and a green tomato ice cream. It was so interesting to create and eat with such a range of tastes, textures and temperatures from just one ingredient. 

After a few years Sodexo supported me to complete my diploma, after a year of study I achieved a 9 (out of 10) and progressed to a Chef de Partie role, at the same level as my male colleagues, earning my well deserved spot in the kitchen.  

Covid-19 brought work to a halt, I missed it incredibly during the first lockdown, but I’ve been able to move to a role on the site of the Sodexo Netherlands headquarters. 

Now my work is focused on preparing the Sodexo Netherlands headquarters company restaurant for full operation once Covid is over. In the meantime, we are using an order-ahead app to enable guests to order contactless meals.

Want to be a chef? Just do it!

Hands wearing gloves, preparing plates of saladI put all my love into every dish, even the simplest cheese sandwich and I love when guests are happy with their orders. I like being busy and working with my hands and I hope to continue to progress to be a head chef or catering manager one day.

I believe you need an extra gastronomic spark in order to be truly successful in a culinary career. You can learn everything about cooking, but you need an extra injection of passion to go further and get to the top. I particularly appreciate that Sodexo gives employees the room to grow.

If I had advice for a woman starting out as a chef, I would say don’t be scared of making mistakes. I burn things, even as a fully qualified chef with years of experience and so do my colleagues with more than 20 years. Nobody is perfect and never think you would be less of a chef, just because you are female. 

To the women out there aspiring to be a chef, JUST DO IT! There are so many workshops, courses and masterclasses available. When I have encouraged my colleagues in the past to hire female chefs, they’ve said to me: “We don’t know any, and none have responded to the job advert.” So just do it. Don’t be scared. Show up. Apply.  Be the change. 

Find out more about becoming a chef! Sodexo Netherlands

This article was created by Evelien de Bot, Chef de partie in Rotterdam, Netherlands

March 02, 2021

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