This was quite a big month for me! After 4 years studying, lectures, practical assessments, exams, stress and the occasional night out! I received the results of my degree, I was completely and utterly shocked to find out I would be graduating with 1st class Honours Food and Nutrition with a Diploma in Professional Practice. After my degree I decided I would do something different and exciting before “settling down” so on the 16th June I flew over to America to spend the Summer working at Chen-A-Wanda Camp working as a cooking specialist teaching kids how to cook!
Summer camp was in full swing! I was spending my days teaching kids how to bake all day in the cook house, mainly waffles, cookies and pancakes! Spending a summer at camp was one of the craziest, fun and tiring things I had ever done! I’d highly recommend it to anyone who wants an experience of a lifetime, my only regret is not having went a few summers before so that I could of went back!
Summer Camp came to a close and so my camp friends and I set off on our travels for 3 weeks. We travelled from Chen-a-Wanda in deep Pennsylvania to New York City, then flew to Las Vegas, Nevada (on my birthday), then road tripped to Los Angeles, California to see the stars, then on to San Diego to relax in an apartment minutes from the beach, then flew down to Florida and spent our days relaxing in the sun and even holding baby Crocodiles in the swamps! Our last venture was a 5 day road trip back up the East Coast visiting Savannah, Georgia, Myrtle Beach, Jersey Shore and Washing D.C before flying back home to Ireland!
September and October 2014
After coming home from my summer in American it was pretty much straight back to work for me! All through University I had a part-time weekend job in a Health and Beauty store. However; since I was now finished University I took on full time hours in the store whilst spending many evenings on the look out and applying for graduate jobs relating to what I studied at University.
In November I was successful at an interview with Willowbrook Foods . John McCann and Andrea Nelson , Joint Managing Directors offered me a position within their ever growing NPD department as a New Product Development Technologist. As Willowbrook Foods is based in Killinchy, Co. Down a long 2 hour drive from my home town of Strabane, Co. Tyrone I quickly found a place to live in Belfast and moved up closer to my new job within 2 weeks of being offered the position.
I started with Willowbrook Foods on 8th December. The first month came as quite a surprise to me and I spent my first days on the factory floor with the operatives. As we produce fresh produce ranges including Salad bags, stir-fry, salad bowls, wet salads and vegetable accompaniments we keep the factory at the low 2°C. This ensures our products are fresh; however it also makes it cold to work in! I valued my time spent on the factory floor however and it has helped me so much in my position as NPD Technician as knowing the factory processes and operations enables me to make my concepts a reality and get products on to supermarket shelves much easier.
January, February, April, May 2015
Through my first few months are Willowbrook Food I can honestly say I learnt so much more about the food industry than I could have imagined I would have this time last year as a new graduate. From business trips to Scotland, trade shows, customer meetings, kitchen trials, production trials and having products I helped develop out there for people to buy. It’s been a crazy few months, no day is ever the same at Willowbrook Foods as we are always striving and working to meet customer demands for our products on a daily basis!
At the very start of June I had a six month review on my development and progress here at Willowbrook. After the review I was offered a new but interrelated position at Willowbrook Foods as an Customer Relations Manager. I still do all the work I did before, I can often still be found in the factory collecting samples, however I now have much more responsibility as I look after my customers in terms of their New Product Development briefs and requirements. This helps Willowbrook continue to be innovative and keep on top of food industry trends. The best thing about Willowbrook however is the team attitude within the NPD department; we all work together and assist each other and help make sure all our customer needs are met in terms of their products.
I’ve come a long way from the naïve food graduate I was this time last year, and I’m looking forward to what the next year will hold for me and Willowbrook Foods.