Julie Sharp, development chef, Callebaut

The Staff Canteen
Julie Sharp

Julie Sharp discusses her role as Development Chef at Callebaut and her own inspirations with regards to persuing a career as a Chef.

Name: Julie Sharp

Place of work: Callebaut

Role: Development Chef

Bio: Julie Sharp is Development Chef and technical advisor for Callebaut’s Chocolate Academy. Having previously held positions at The Landmark Hotel, Mandarin Oriental and The Millionaires’ Club in the Bahamas she returned to the UK to work at Claridge’s before starting with Callebaut four years ago.

Follow Julie on Twitter here: @juleschoc 

What are some examples of the types of things you have developed for Callebaut?

Recently I’ve been working on something called The Cocoa Collective, which comes out in October. We’ve been thinking about using savoury things with chocolate. There’s a real trend, in particular with bakeries, to add more vinegars, add more salt and to take the sweetness out of desert; everybody’s thinking a lot healthier when they’re eating things.

So we had to come up with a product each from our favourite vegetable, mine was parsnip so I worked on a carrot cake basis and made a parsnip, cardamom cake with burnt honey brulee and a milk chocolate mousse.

Sometimes when we do something for the first time you think ‘No, that doesn’t taste right’ and you do it four or five more times and add in a few extra ingredients, all of a sudden it ends up tasting wonderful.

So when that comes out there’ll be some really weird and wonderful mixtures of vegetables and chocolate that actually go really well together.

What do you find most rewarding about teaching?

I just love it when you see the lightbulb go on above somebody’s head! Chocolate is quite hard to work with but there are a few rules that, if you follow them, makes everything work.

We often have people who’ve decided they wanted to be chocolatiers and  when you teach them the basics, you can see them suddenly go ‘Oh, that’s  why that happens!’ and when they go away you feel that that’s changed their life, because all of a sudden the things that were driving them mad, it's all been sorted out for them. And it’s just a great feeling to think you’ve really helped people.

What are you looking for on a CV or in an interview if someone were applying to work with you?

I think it’s passion and enthusiasm. Some people come in and they’re really worried because they don’t think they’d be able to learn anything but we always say, ‘No, you just have to listen’. Once they listen they take things on board, they do it and they walked away amazed at what they’ve achieved. 

You don’t necessarily need to have the skills because we could teach you those, but if you haven’t got passion and enthusiasm, then we can’t really teach you anything.

How many years in the industry would you suggest someone have before wanting to become a Development Chef?

I would say you would need about three or four years in the industry. I think there are different ways of going into Development Cheffing, some people do a few degrees and go through universities.

I think it’s also good if you’ve got a bit of background. If you’ve worked in hotels and restaurants for example, if you’ve been in and seen a few different outlets so that when you go into Development Cheffing, you can say you’ve got different ideas and backgrounds; gone full on.

What are your top tips for someone looking for a career in the hospitality sector?

Do your research - see what kind of foods you want to develop or which area you want to go into, there are so many specialists now you can go into just confectionary or just ice cream.

Look to see who the key people in that industry are - see if you can work with them, do a stage because everybody’s looking for staff and they’ll all be quite happy to have people come in and work for them.

Look at what’s happening all over the world - see what people are doing and get inspired by that. Have a good general awareness of what’s going on.

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The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th May 2017

Julie Sharp, development chef, Callebaut