Pastry chef Ravneet Gill says she’s in no hurry to open her own bakery or restaurant after being “treated badly” while working in professional kitchens.
“I remember complaining about a chef’s treatment of me and what he was doing in the kitchen, and emailing my head chef a report of what I thought was unacceptable,” says Gill, who quit the hospitality industry during the pandemic to focus on food writing.
“The head chef just forwarded it to that chef saying, ‘This is what this person said about you’.”
She laughs at the absurdity of the memory, continuing: “I got bullied out of that kitchen… I don’t think I could have stayed there after that.”
Instead of joining the droves of disillusioned young chefs who give up on their dreams, the Cordon Bleu-trained chef got work launching Countertalk, a platform that aims to promote healthy working environments by hosting educational events and listing job opportunities with approved companies.
“It was founded as a result of being treated badly in kitchens,” says Gill, who was born in London to Indian parents, and became a judge on Channel 4’s Junior Bake Off in 2020.
“I wanted to create a platform that championed the places that were trying to treat people better, and also show that those places exist.
“If you get into one, it’s not going to deter you from working in food – because a bad experience can put you off for life.”
However, she’s keen to point out that resilience is key if you want to make it in the cut-throat culinary world.
“You’ve got to face things that are difficult because that’s how you grow and that’s how you get better,” says Gill, who worked in the pastry sections of renowned restaurants including St. JOHN and Wild by Tart.
“When I realised that at work, I became a much better chef. If you’re just constantly being babied, when things get uncomfortable you’ll leave – it’s not good for you.”
While the London-based chef would “love to” open her own place one day, she’s wary of taking that step, having worked on many a restaurant launch: “I’ve seen how badly wrong it can go and all of the resilience it takes, all of the money it takes, all of the constant hurdles that you face. It’s put me off a bit, I’m not going to lie.”
Besides, she’s got rather a lot on her plate at the moment.
Gill recently gave birth to her first child, a boy called Donnie (short for Donato, after his Italian grandfather), and when we speak, the new mum is days away from the release of her third recipe book, Cooking For Pleasure.
“It’s been a complete whirlwind,” says the 32-year-old, who married fellow chef Mattie Taiano this year.
Did she realise the book and the baby would arrive so close together?
“I was totally aware of this,” she says. “My publisher said to me, ‘We can push the release to spring,’ and I was like, ‘No, don’t be ridiculous, obviously I can do both.’
“I thought that I could just have this baby and then go on with my work at the same time, but sometimes I just spend the entire day holding the baby, feeding the baby, washing up… It’s like, I don’t understand where all my time goes.”
While Gill’s first two books were aimed at bakers who wanted to make pro-level patisserie creations, Baking For Pleasure suits the author’s new chapter in life: “It’s the first book I’ve written that’s for people at home. It’s because my whole life shifted after my first book and I’m at home a lot more.”
These recipes are about “Not using too many pots and pans… dishes that can either store really well or you can make an advance. And things that don’t take up like loads of room in your fridge or have loads of steps.”
Having reached a much bigger audience on Junior Bake Off (she has 164K followers on Instagram), Gill says the TV show, “changed my whole career and my life… I feel very, very grateful for that.”
The judging gig almost didn’t happen, however, because Gill thought the message she received on Instagram asking her to audition was a scam.
“I thought it was a joke! I thought, ‘This is just one of those schemes.’ Like, why would they want me? They’re going to want basically another Mary Berry.”
Luckily her mother convinced her to respond: “My mum told me just to go for it, get over it, what’s the worst that can happen? I went into the audition and I got it.”
Filming of the latest series has wrapped (it’s back on screens in January), meaning Gill can finally schedule in some downtime and take a breather.
“I’m not someone who likes taking time off, but my body is telling me I need to,” she says.
“And I’m also so excited about spending time with my little baby – I don’t want to miss a thing.”
Baking For Pleasure by Ravneet Gill is published by Pavilion, priced £26. Photography by Mike Tsang. Available now.