20% off selected homecook and professional courses this July & August

Use code SUMMER22 at checkout. Click here for more details.

#MadeAtLeiths Letitia Ann Clark, From London to Sardinia

/ Categories Student stories, #MadeAtLeiths / Author:

#MadeAtLeiths Letitia Ann Clark, From London to Sardinia

Photography © Matt Russell

Letitia Ann Clark graduated from Leiths ten years ago, and has since had an exciting, diverse career in the food industry; from exploring the London restaurant scene, to following her love of Italian food to the island of Sardinia, to launching her first cookbook Bitter Honey this summer.

Exactly 10 years ago I graduated from Leiths with a professional diploma in food and wine.

I remember in our final weeks we had a meeting with the then-head of the school, the brilliant Claire Macdonald. We were supposed to discuss our plans for the future, and what we thought we would do with our Leith’s Diploma once we had graduated.

I remember saying to Claire:

‘I want to be a sort of female Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. To have my own little house/garden/small-holding where I can teach and cook and grow everything myself’.

She laughed, and said it was an admirable (if romantic) ambition.

10 years on, I can’t exactly describe myself as a female Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, but in many ways I am on a similar sort of path to that which I dreamt of. My ambition of having something, whether a small B and B, cookery school, market garden and restaurant or Agriturismo, has endured. However, I never would have envisaged I would end up in Sardinia.

I was born and raised in Devon, and my mum and grandmother always grew a lot of the food we ate. We were a family that loved food and loved the countryside. After graduating from Leiths I went to work in a number of London restaurants, but my dream was always to return somewhere more rural, as I have never been a city person. I loved London, I love it still, but London life is not for me. Though Sardinia is very far from Devon in many ways, not just geographically, they share an unspoilt, bucolic beauty, and a wealth of dairy products that I particularly cherish.

The first restaurant I ever worked in after Leiths was The Dock Kitchen. Sadly now closed, Stevie Parle ran this extraordinary restaurant on the canal near Kensal Rise. We cooked food from all over the world, inspired by Stevie’s travels. His training had been at The River Café, and his knowledge, understanding and execution of Italian food blew my mind. Here I tasted real extra virgin olive oil – so strong it made my eyes water - for the first time in my life, and I knew things would never be the same after that. After staying here for a year, I returned to university to study for my masters. I juggled my Modern English Literature masters with evening/early morning work at a local bakery in Edinburgh. Here I discovered a love of baking, which I still have now, and which I am currently employing as I write my second book, all about baking sweet things. After I finished my masters I worked for a brief while in publishing, but office life wasn’t for me, so I went back into the kitchen for the opening of a friend’s restaurant, Spring.

Spring had the same emphasis on ingredients that I’d learnt at The Dock, and I found myself working with the best olive oil, parmesan and prosciutto all over again. Though Skye Gyngell’s food is international, it takes the Mediterranean as its focus, and this was the food I already knew and loved. After two years at Spring I went to work at Ellory (now Leroy) then at Morito. I love all food, and have never met a cuisine I didn’t like, but Italy and Italian food continued to call to me, wherever I went, and whatever I did.

This may well be because Italian food is so linked to the primary ingredients which compose the cuisine, and thus also to the countryside. In this way, Italian food takes me home, so perhaps it makes sense that I am here now.

Whatever the future holds, there is no doubt that my time at Leith’s shaped me hugely, and I wouldn’t be where I am without the exceptional training I received there. Though I could never claim to be a precise cook like those I admired and learned from at Leiths, the thing that remains with me is the joy of food and the extensive knowledge of ingredients and technique which Leiths inspired and which I hold dear today.

I feel enormously lucky to have studied at Leiths, and one of the things that struck me most about the programme was the diversity: though often billed as a ‘classic’, ie French, cookery school, I remember with joy a day of Japanese cooking, a talk and cookery demonstration from the new-hot-chef Ottolenghi, and a trip to the Cockney institution, Billingsgate Fish Market. Leiths gave me a grounding and a whole load of memories that are both invaluable, and I have my Diploma certificate framed and mounted on the wall of my loo. It has travelled with me everywhere, and my best friends are still those I made on the course. I am privileged to call myself a Leiths Graduate.

Letitia Clark is a chef, food writer and illustrator. Originally from Devon, Letitia trained at Leiths in 2010, and then went on to work in some of London’s top restaurants. In 2017 she moved from London to Sardinia. Her first book, Bitter Honey: Stories and Recipes from Sardinia, was published in April, to huge acclaim. The New York Times named it as one of the cookbooks of the year. Letitia continues to write, draw and cook from her home in Sardinia, and is currently working on her second book, as well as planning her Agriturismo.

Bitter Honey by Letitia Clark (Hardie Grant, Hardback & eBook) Photography © Matt Russell

If you are motivated by a love of good food and want to carve out your own path in the food industry, you can visit Leiths virtually here and experience a virtual tour of the school, see a true to life cooking demo, and hear from more of our alumni and current students. Book a one to one chat with us through this page and see where the Leiths diploma could take you... to Sardinia and beyond.


Loading course information...