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5 things I've learned: Recipe writer Helen Graves on why you should always clean as you go

Helen spends her days writing, shooting, editing – and eating a *lot* of BBQ.

Image: Instagram/Helen Graves

MANY SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE out there started out on one career path and ended up following something totally different.

Gordon Ramsay, for example, once played with Glasgow Rangers FC, before going on to becoming the foul-mouthed Michelin-starred chef we now know.

Helen Graves is a freelance recipe developer, food and travel writer these days, but she worked in psychology research in the UK for more than 10 years before her food blog gradually grew a life of its own.

Since then, Helen’s passion for food has turned into a spectacularly accomplished career. She has written for publications across the UK and is editor of Pit, an independent magazine about live fire cooking and smoking.

“I do a lot of great shoots for Pit where we work with barbecue chefs or producers to create something special,” says Helen, a self-proclaimed sandwich and BBQ addict.

“A particular favourite was the time we created a gigantic goat shawarma for around 30 people using a giant spit in a garden in Catford. It was snowing and we were all standing there keeping warm around the shawarma! The photos were amazing, though.”

Helen’s Instagram account is enviable and definitely drool-worthy, with photos from all of her work on photoshoots as well as recipes in development – and a whole lot of meat.

We asked Helen to share five things she’s learned throughout her career…

1. Clean up as you go along

“Sometimes the simplest lessons are the easy ones. It’s so obvious, but if I get into a mess it really affects my cooking and I start making mistakes.”

2. Keep the weird photoshoot props to a minimum

“Some food stylists will put objects on the table that wouldn’t normally even be around food and I find that quite strange. When I shoot, I like to see the food looking natural, with no faffing about.”

3. Don’t work for free

“Write as much as you can and don’t let people take the mickey by asking you to work for free unless it’s really, genuinely an amazing opportunity. I started food writing through the blogging route, which means you have something you can show to people, rather than pitching cold.”

4. Get up at the same time every day

“I’ve learnt that it’s important to establish a daily routine as a freelancer, so that means getting up at the same time and having some structure to the day. For me, it’s about getting up and going to the gym, which wakes me up, gives me somewhere to be every morning and of course, counteracts the effects of food writing!”

5. Make mistakes, then move on

“It’s important not to dwell on mistakes. Most people have done work they’re perhaps not so proud of, or even that they regret. It’s important to acknowledge this, but then move on and not let it hold you back from developing.”

More 5 things I’ve learned: Lillian Luk, the home chef who started a top supper club>

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About the author:

Dee Laffan

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