Notes from last night - "How to Start A Food Business & Get On TV: An evening with Patrick Drake"

rsz_patrick_drake_image-460x276Last night, the Rehearsal Room at the Adam St Club was wall to wall with budding escapees, keen to learn about building careers outside the corporate mainstream.

They had come to see Patrick Drake talk about his experiences transitioning from his former life, as a lawyer at huge, multinational law firms, to the life of his choosing.

Now he works as a television chef and presenter, as well as being the co-founder and head chef at Hello Fresh.

Patrick looks like an adventurer.

He sports a brown leather jacket, his beard is groomed, his hair swept back, and he has a charismatic glint in his eye. The same glint, I suspect, that speaks of the hunger and desire to make his dreams a reality, that same drive that gave him opportunities to access kitchens like Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, Soho’s Cuckoo Club and Kensington’s Brindisa.

Escape the City’s Mark introduced Patrick and, to begin with, encouraged everyone to turn to the person next to them, introduce themselves and tell them about their food idea, or the idea that brought them to the talk that night.

The room erupted, people so willing and ready to share their ideas with one another, without hesitation, without the anxiety that sharing their idea would compromise or diminish it. It’s that enthusiasm that makes these Escape the City events so wonderful.

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The audience calmed down…

…and Patrick began. He told us his story, the story that brought him to where he is now. He told us that in the first week of Hello Fresh, the team packed 10 product boxes in his lounge room and sent them out into the world, mostly to family and friends. Two years later, this year they will supply 1 million boxes across the U.K.

Patrick shared 5 things he has learned on his journey so far:

1. Be a dreamer.

Patrick laments that dreaming has become stigmatised in our society, that it’s somehow a bad thing. However, he reminded us that dreaming is the kernel from which everything happens.

(I’ve written that down on a piece of paper and stuck it to my computer monitor at work!)

He told us that discovering his dream was his most difficult thing. He knew what direction he was heading in; that it was away from law and towards cooking and sharing his cooking with others, but it took some time until he realised exactly what form it would take. Also, he told us when he found his dream, that’s when the hard work really started!

A big element of his advice was to undertake ‘pragmatic dreaming’.

Take your grand dream and break it down into a series of steps, whether it be 5, 10 or more. Next, work to complete each of those steps. By completing them, when an opportunity presents itself, you’ll be ready to take full advantage of it, which was precisely what happened for him when he got an email out of the blue to fly to Italy to film a food show. This year it will screen in 68 countries on the Discovery Channel.

2. Don’t listen to the naysayers.

There are so many of them, and the bigger you dream, the more resistance you’ll receive. The naysayers are those who see your dream and it makes them look inwardly, at their own dreams that they’re too fearful to try to pursue. Instead, surround yourself with people who encourage you to succeed. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so choose those people well.

3. Be audacious.

He encouraged us to not fear failure, but to fear the regret of not taking an opportunity to do something amazing.

In respect to this, Patrick shared two pieces of advice which guide him. One, if you don’t ask, you won’t get, and two, the worst thing that can happen to you is they’ll say no. The reason he was able to get the opportunities to go to Fat Duck and get work in other prestigious kitchens he put down to these two things.

4. Get cracking!

Procrastination is the most destructive thing, it is the voice inside you that says you can’t do it. Patrick told us that the first delivery they sent out wasn’t amazing, nowhere near the quality they produce now, but it was done. It was out in the world and they could start getting live feedback from their customers, which is vitally important.

[I’ll be filming my first YouTube video this week now!]

5. Finally, be prepared to fail.

You will. Don’t be scared of it.

The most successful people fail and fail again. It’s a stepping-stone to success. Failure, like dreaming, is stigmatised in our culture, but these two things are central to people making new things and achieving success in their ventures.

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 10.12.18Patrick’s talk was like a goody bag of great advice, every second sentence a piece of wisdom. In addition to his five points, I’d like to add a few others I took down.

Before Patrick made his escape (and after), he rehearsed the skills that would be most vital to him. Before filming the pilot episode of his cooking show, he cooked incessantly and narrated everything he did. Later, he dedicated all his free time to honing his cooking skills. He went out and experimented with what he wanted to do by asking people for their help. By testing the water of what he was doing, by making his own YouTube videos and working in commercial kitchens, he had a taste of what he was getting himself into, as well as preparing himself.

Patrick also acknowledged that although he tells his escape story lightheartedly, it was a tough journey, one which he questioned himself over at times. It took him 3 years to get to the point that when an opportunity presented itself to him he was able to take it up and make the most of it.

He also emphasized how important it is to get out and meet as many people as you can, as he feels that the person who will help you achieve what you want is out there, somewhere. Meeting the right person, the one who can introduce you to someone or connect you with the perfect opportunity, is just a numbers game. He told us “I wasn’t going to find my dreams down the back of my sofa. I had to get out there and talk to people”.

Finally, he left us with this: “You can lead your best life and it’s not a scary thing. Whatever it is you want to do, don’t be intimidated by it.”

[This post was written by Ede Strong. Ede is currently planning his own escape, developing Ede’s Rascals, a food business that will soon bring his novel and delicious sweets, desserts and drinks to the streets of London. Check him on Facebook and on Twitter @edesrascals]

If you enjoyed last night, we’d love to see you at another event:

You can read Patrick’s Escape Interview over on our main site – here.

[Check out our upcoming events here:]

What is Escape the City all about then?

Frustrated by climbing the corporate ladder, we decided to build a community to help people build meaningful careers doing work that matters – to them and to the world. We help talented people find fulfilling work by making big career changes, building businesses, & going on big adventures. We’d love you to come with us on this journey.

How do you get involved?

1. Job Seeker? Create an Escape Profile to get matched to exciting jobs.

2. Aspiring Career Changer / Entrepreneur? If you’re in London, come and see us at The Escape School.

3. Want to stay in touch? Subscribe to one of our newsletters. Find us on Facebook or @escthecity.

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