For many people who work with the Youth Food Movement in Sydney, Angie’s name is never far behind (usually followed by the words “amazing” and “omg it was soooo freakin delicious”). Angie started volunteering for us in 2014 at Passata Day. Since then she’s not only kept us well fed and our inner cooks inspired, but worked for some incredible for-purpose food organisations. From her work at Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food here in Australia, to local social enterprise Two Good, Angie is one of those people who gives everyone around her hope that you can totally make a career out of doing good in a field you love.

But, we wanted to keep things real. So we sat down with Angie to talk about not just the highlights, but the sweatier bits along the way.

Anyone who knows you, knows you love food – but what made you realise you wanted to work in the field?

I’ve always been a keen cook and it was when I was at uni that I started working at farmers markets. I actually have always worked in food and come to think of it… every job I’ve ever had was food based! But when did I realise I wanted to make it my career? It was the moment I realised that what made me happiest was sourcing local produce, cooking and feeding others. Food however is a very large field and I’m still growing and learning and investigating where I can really fit into that big field.

What have you found has really mattered when it comes to getting the really significant roles? 

In food, as most industries, it’s not what qualifications you have or how much you may have researched something, it’s how hard you’re willing to work to get there. Work experience is key in discovering what your passion and skill are but I found my way through volunteer roles and people getting to know me that way and how hard I work and how passionate I am about food and getting the right results. You would be surprised how much a heart felt letter means to a chair of an organisation – so that’s what I did! I would say that while study can often give you a base, hard work and passion are what get you the job. You have to be willing to do the shit jobs before you can be in charge and I think people often forget that and want to jump to what seems like the ‘fun stuff’ but is in actual fact the boring tedious admin work!

There’s a lot of glamourising of working in the food world. What stuff is pretty accurate and keeps you going? What stuff is less amazing?

The amount of drinking that goes on behind kitchen doors is pretty accurate. It can be a stressful job both front of house and back of house. I’ve worked in restaurants, catering companies, food events, writing and creating recipes and photoshoots. While it’s hard work it is fun. But if it’s not what drives you and what you’re deeply passionate about, it can become just another under-appreciated role.

But what is accurate is all the delicious food you get to sample, the delicious wines and cocktails you get to pour.

That said, I don’t think there is a lot of glamour about actually working in food and the not-for-profit sector. It’s sweaty, heard work for little pay and you often have to work weekends and forgo the exciting events because that’s when it’s busiest. The broken nails suck! But what keeps me going is the knowledge that I’m helping people. I love food and I love working with purpose led businesses that understand the idea of really giving back. I’m lucky that I know when I’m working as a chef I know my food is being delivered to those who need it most (via Two Good) and I know when I’m teaching (both for charities and Feather & Bone) that I’m making a difference to someone’s life. That they may go and change their cooking/eating behaviours based on their new knowledge that I’ve shared. I’m lucky that what I do can give me that warm fuzzy feeling knowing that I’m always contributing to social change.

Looking back on your career trajectory – what other advice would you give to someone who wants to work in for-purpose food roles? Especially any stuff that people usually underestimate.

If there is a purpose driven business that you’re passionate about – email them, call them, write to them and express interest in what they do and that you want to help. It may not be paid straight away but if you work hard enough and show good commitment then you could be where your dreams lead you. I knew that I wanted to help people through food and I wasn’t sure what that looked like when I first decided it in my head. I’m still looking for new ways to do that.

The main thing is to always be willing to clean up the shit to get there – work hard and understand that what this world needs are more conscientious consumers and companies willing to share the benefits of these prosperous times. You never know who is actually watching from the sideline and what opportunities may arise!

Be nimble. Use your own skills and knowledge to your advantage and if you can’t find anyone to join – then start something yourself! Be willing to volunteer your time!

Also be willing to take a massive pay cut! The Not for profit food sector is not known for its huge salaries and be content in knowing that you are helping someone or something to improve this world we inhabit.

Image credit: Nikki To

Zo Zhou

Zo Zhou

Zo is the National Communications Manager and will basically never shut up about vegetables.