Neel Shah Tesco

Name: Neel Shah

Age: 29

Job title: Development Chef

Company & location: Tesco, Welwyn Garden City

Education: University of West London, Culinary Arts Management (1st Class Honours Degree)

Why did you decide to go for a career in food? I was about 14 years old – I started cooking at home and was fascinated by watching cooking programmes on TV, especially when I was studying food tech at school and realised I had a unique skill set. My teacher at the time told me about a college where I could do a Saturday cooking course, and it pretty much went from there! I slowly realised that I really enjoyed cooking and making other people happy by cooking food for them. You spend most of your life working or at work, so I think it’s important that you do something that you feel really passionate about.

Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): My role is all about helping to develop new, exciting recipes and products for Tesco, hand in hand with suppliers. It’s all about creating food that is tasty, great quality and will work on a large scale. Staying on top of food trends is vital – as is staying curious. I love tasting new recipes! 

What does a typical day look like for you? Lots of thinking, planning, creating, tasting and eating! What I love about my job is that no week is the same – we get involved in so many different projects, so I’m always continuously learning and growing my skills.

“When I was studying food tech at school I realised I had a unique skill set”

Tell us about how you went about applying for your job: There were two stages to the interview process, which took place at the Tesco Head Office and Development Kitchen. My first interview was with my potential line manager and following this the second interview was with the Executive Chef at the time so that was a little nerve-wracking. It was actually a pretty relaxed session and I brought a portfolio and a copy of a recipe book I had put together with me to earn me some extra brownie points. 

What’s the best part about working for a food company? Developing exciting products for customers and then going to do a shop and watching customers pick up products that you have worked on is very satisfying and rewarding. Better still, you’re always surrounded by food – and never hungry at work!

And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? I think that a lot of people are not aware that some of the jobs in the food business even exist. Working in new product development for a retailer you very quickly realise how big the opportunities can be.

What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? Be open minded. There are so many different types of jobs that you can start with in the food world. Move around, learn new skills, and keep your eyes open for different types of opportunities. It’s a massive industry and there will be a job for everyone who has a passion for food.

What’s your ultimate career dream? Eventually, I would love to have my own restaurant facing an open tropical beach – serving a selection of Fusion Indian small plates.