“There’s definitely chefs out there who won’t take you seriously,” admits Becca McFarlane, head chef of Black Mamba, Dundee.
24-year-old Becca fell in love with cooking while studying Psychology at university.
Just four years later, she is head chef at the new, popular tapas spot on Dundee’s Nethergate.
This means long hours – even 13 13-hour shifts in a row! – and managing a team of four in the kitchen.
And has being a young woman ever complicated things for Becca along the way?
“You’ve got to prove yourself,” she says.
“They [chefs] don’t automatically have that respect for you.
“But then as soon as you prove yourself,” she adds, “they realise that you’re just as good as them.
“I’ve worked really hard, and I think people can see the effort and hours that I put in.
“And I think they now take me for the chef that I am, and not a young girl.”
Being underestimated can ‘feel good’ when you can prove them wrong
“I think there’s pressure being a young female in general,” Becca adds, “but as long as you’re surrounded by the right people, people who believe in you and support you, that helps.
“I wouldn’t have people in my kitchen that didn’t – they wouldn’t last long.”
Although she has a great team around her, Becca says she has been underestimated and overlooked by some outside the business.
“I experience that a lot when people come in with deliveries and things like that,” she says.
“They just walk straight past me and go to whoever else is in the kitchen.
“Someone who looks like they’re in charge, I suppose.”
“I like to defy expectations so I kind of enjoy it. It feels quite good sometimes.”
Becca does however acknowledge that it is rare to become a head chef at such a young age. It is an accomplishment she is rightly proud of.
“It’s probably one of the proudest achievements I’ve got to date,” says Becca.
“I’ve never actually met another head chef my age.”
‘I absolutely fell in love with being in a kitchen’
Becca hasn’t been in love with cooking her whole life. It wasn’t until university that she discovered her passion.
“I’d never considered being a chef an option. I didn’t know much about it at that time but I thought it was quite cool.
“But then I got a job washing dishes in my second year at uni and I absolutely fell in love with being in a kitchen.
“The energy in a kitchen is like nothing I’ve experienced anywhere else.
“I totally thrived and I’ve just moved my way up through the ranks.”
Getting to craft the menu herself at Black Mamba, Dundee, is a dream come true for Becca.
“The whole menu is mine,” she explains, “that’s what really drew me to the role.
“That creative freedom is absolutely amazing, not just for someone as young as myself.”
While Becca loves putting in that passion to bring her menu from the page to the plate, it does require long and unsociable hours.
“When we first opened, I worked 13 13-hour shifts in a row,” she says, over the sound of the courgette she’s chopping.
“But it’s like people say, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.
“I didn’t even feel it until I stopped.
“I’m making own food from my own menu for the first time, so I’m really passionate about it.”