Stepping into Lisa Fearn’s farmhouse kitchen, the first thing you notice is the waft of something good coming from the large range oven.
“Not being a trained chef makes you doubt yourself,” says Fearn as we settle down at the kitchen table to discuss her ten year career in food as a TV chef, educator and author of two cookery books.
On the brink of opening her latest venture, a cookery school, cafe and rural skills centre and for someone who has taught invaluable skills to thousands of people over the course of her career, this statement comes at odds with her success and certainly her achievements.
Self doubt is widespread
It does however ring familiar. Through the course of my interview for this series, I’ve spoken to many women who have expressed similar feelings and have grappled with self doubt and ‘imposter syndrome.’ In the warmth of Fearn’s kitchen, that same sense presents itself as an awkward guest once more at the table. We laugh about it, shrug it off but I’m keenly aware that this is a feeling which accompanies many women in their careers and possibly not limited to the food industry.
“You almost think that you are only good enough for certain work and many women don’t feel confident enough to be ambitious,” says Fearn, “No matter how successful you are, if those feelings are there, they don’t go away.”
Learning through our children
Mother to five children, Fearn set up Pumpkin Patch cookery school from her home on a Carmarthenshire farm ten years ago. “The three things I knew were cookery, gardening and children,” she says, “So I began a cookery school for children where we grew things in the garden to use in the kitchen.” Classes for adults began when a parent expressed surprise at a stalk of Brussels sprouts growing in the garden and said to Fearn, ‘I need to come to these classes too!’ Fearn developed workshops in which both parent and child could learn together, “The parents were learning how to cook for their families through their children,” says Fearn of her innovative approach.
Citing Jamie Oliver as one of her inspirations, Fearn says, “He makes the link between cooking and education. He nurtures confidence in people to try small changes.”
Eat well, perform better
Growing up, Fearn’s mother worked outside the home as a hairdresser, “My mother hated cooking,” she recollects, “And would drop me off instead at the shops to organise ingredients for tea.” As a teenager, Fearn represented her country in athletics, competing in both the high jump and the long jump. Her career was stopped short by injury whilst training for the Commonwealth Games in 1986 but her interest in good food and nutrition remained. “I needed to eat well as I was training,” says Fearn “And my interest in nutrition stayed with me. I think it’s so important that children know about food groups, what’s good for them, that it’s ok to eat a little bit of everything and that exercise is important. It’s all about balance.”
Self belief is key
Fearn has recently become an ambassador for Big Ideas Wales, “I run cookery workshops in schools to help kids develop their confidence. Not everyone is sporty, musical or academic and many wonder, ‘where do I fit in?’ I want to help them realise that they can do things, to have belief in themselves and to find their niche, wherever that may be. These are skills that can take them into being self-employed and offer a better future, which I find amazing.”
Clearly Fearn has found her niche, using the medium of food to inspire others to believe in themselves and discover that we are all capable of so much more than we ever thought. Fearn advises, “Don’t worry if you need to compromise your standards at home and things get a little dusty or out of place. Be confident in what you have, in what you do and don’t be afraid to follow your dreams.”
Quick Fire Questions!
Who inspired you to become a chef?
What did you have for dinner last night?
Mezze sharing platter
Favourite sports team?
Best cookbook you’ve ever read?
Struggling….Salt Fat Acid Heat
Favourite chef ever?
Ever dated a chef? How did it end or are you still together?
Favourite meal to cook for yourself?
Poached egg on toast
How many hours sleep do you get?
Best meal ever?
Whatever – when I’m really hungry
Favourite clothes to cook in?
Jeans & shirt
Most treasured kitchen tool?
I have very little sentiment… my global Santoku knife
What would your superpower be?