Leiths School of Food and Wine

The Leiths Diaries: The prelude

This is a post in The Leiths Diaries series. Read more here.

Leiths School of Food and Wine

How do you begin talking about something that will change your life? And this will change mine. Not completely alter its direction but at least refract it to some unknown destination. That something is this: on the 3rd of January 2012, I start the Two Term Diploma at Leiths School of Food and Wine.

People who know me well will know that this is something that’s been a long time in the planning. I first brought up the subject at the Christmas table last year. After much deliberation over costs, time and desired result, I committed. This, I thought, was I needed and very much wanted to do.

Admittedly I already write about food and wine and often travel in said circles, so it’s no great leap to move on to a bit of cheffing too. After all, I do and always did love to cook. Still, it feels like a real commitment to take six months out of my life, essentially a career break, to do something which I hope will ultimately build foundations for something that I love and something I’d very much like to do a lot more of – write about food and drink.

Is it foolish to be spending a small fortune training to professional chef standards with little intention of going into restaurants? Perhaps. But coming from a family and nation where academia is highly commended, cheffing isn’t something I ever considered as a career option and it’s not something I imagine myself particularly well suited to. Then again, if you had asked me five years ago what I wanted to do with my life, I certainly wouldn’t have responded with being a food and drink writer. I’m still happy to admit that it’s a fluffy subject and I’m no Laurie Penny.

In truth I am not entirely certain of what I will do with my Leiths Diploma, the subject of this mini-series. That must seem like the worst thing to say when there’s only a month to go before I start. What did I spend the last year or so preparing for? What did I get myself into?

What I am certain of is the foundation that it promises to build. Having grown up in different countries and cultures, there are times when I feel like there’s a gap in my knowledge. And that gap is there. The food I’ve grown up with isn’t what I eat now and the food I eat now isn’t what I’ve known. So in some respects, I think this course will be the thread that will sew my food knowledge together and in turn, help me write about food better.

Then there’s the wine aspect. Having spent a year and half immersed in the industry, I’ve found myself increasingly interested in wine; in its history, culture, production, economics, politics and more. The exploration of wine is much more cerebrally demanding and that titillates the intellectual snob in me. The WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) part therefore, I hope, will furnish me with a solid understanding of wine.

Even so, when faced with the question “what are you going to do afterwards” I only have one real answer: “more of the same I guess”.

Qin Xie

Qin Xie is a London based food, wine and travel journalist and trained chef.

When not infiltrating Michelin restaurants as a kitchen tourist, she writes about food, drink and travel. Her work has appeared on Yahoo, FT, The Times and CNN.

Her first cookbook, co-authored with YS Peng at Hunan Restaurant, is out March 2014.

According to friends, her watch is always set to UTC -- ready for the next big adventure. In reality, she is happiest at the dinner table or by the sea.


  1. […] I started the Leiths course, I wrote about wanting to learn much more about wines. I wanted to be able to understand and write eloquently about its history, culture, production, […]

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