Brett Parker – Second Year Griffith University Student

Background

My family travelled a lot while I was growing up, so I was exposed to a lot of different cultures and the types of food they had to offer. I also spent 3 years of schooling in Hong Kong so I have a lot of international friends. Mum was a very good home cook, and she had me in the kitchen from about 13 I think. By the time I was 18 and visiting during university holidays, I’d usually takeover the kitchen and cook away! Funnily enough, even though all through university (I originally studied Business) I would have friends over for dinner parties and BBQ’s and cook from scratch, it never occurred to me that I could make a living in a food or for that matter a nutrition based job. This was also despite the fact that I was an avid gym buff that was always watching what I ate. It took me to meet my wife, while working in Japan to realize I could make a living in food….although it was on what those in dietetics would call ‘the dark side’! 

I started my food career in takeaway food. Yup, that’s right…..

Why did you choose dietetics as a career?

Well, in about 2010, after a number of years in takeaway fish and chips that I found myself making a good living, but at a price. I was working 80-100 hours a week (yes, that’s 7 days a week), and I had put on about 10 kg’s, and I wasn’t happy. I had stopped going to the gym, or performing any type of exercise. At that time I had no idea how much eating poorly and being overweight can affect not only your physical, but also your mental well-being. I knew something was wrong, so I went back to basics and rejoined the gym, stopped eating the daily special, and over 6 months proceeded to lose all the weight I had put on…and then some. In fact, I got back to the weight I had been at 18. (I was 35 at the time). I was stronger, fitter, and wiser…..and I wanted to spread the word. I started putting all these healthy options on the menu…..salads, grilled specials, gluten free options, and so on. I thought….I’m going to change Fish and Chips for good! And, well, I was wrong. Customers weren’t interested (some were, but not many), and I realized that I had the wrong venue. I needed to be in a place where I could help those who really wanted /needed to be helped. It was around that time that I saw a documentary called “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” by a man called Joe Cross (I really recommend that you watch the documentary). Now, he is not a dietitian, but he inspired me to be one. I realized, that to inspire people to change, well, doing it from a fish and chip shop wasn’t going to do it! The next day I rang Griffith University, and fortunately I got in.

Tell me about your job/s and describe a typical day for you?

Well, a lot has happened since I started my Dietetics degree 18 months ago. I ended up starting a heath food café 6 months into my degree and after a year I sold it. It was taking up so much time, and I think my days of running food businesses have come to an end! While I had the café, I gained a lot of catering clients who loved that I offered all types of food….vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, gluten free, diabetic friendly and so on. To this day I still do catering for local businesses. I also work casually for the Careers department at Griffith, and I also do what I can for Dietitian Connection Student Facebook Page, as well as LinkedIn, so my schedule is pretty chaotic!

Generally though when University is on, I’m up at 5:30, off to the gym, back just before 7. Ill have breakfast, then get on the net and check emails. If there is catering I’ll schedule it and work out when I need to get everything prepared and delivered by. If I have Careers work on, I’ll schedule that too. I’m usually at uni by 8 (even if I have no classes, I’m most productive at uni) and I’ll usually get home by 5 ish. After dinner, most nights I am on the net looking for content to add to Dietitian Connection, as well as talking to dietitians across Australia and the World. The internet is my best friend when it comes to networking and keeping up to date!

What role do you see yourself filling at the end of your degree?

I am really hoping to be a dietetics advisor in a kitchen in a large hospital. It really concerns me that there are such chronic levels of malnutrition in hospitals in Australia. I would like to do my best to help rectify this. Ideally I would like to research the causes and implement solutions Australia wide. It’s a big goal, but as we have an ageing population, it’s a necessary one! I would also love to teach. I would love the opportunity to teach new students about the world of dietetics and hopefully inspire them to do the best they can. This is a big part of why I am currently involved with Dietitian Connection.

What would be your top 3 tips to someone starting their career in dietetics?

1.Start in your first year!

Being a “mature” age student means I am fortunate enough to be aware that having a degree does not guarantee you a job in dietetics. It is merely a passport that allows you the opportunity to work in dietetics. As such, the motto we preach in the careers service is to start you career in 1st year. That doesn’t necessarily mean get a related job (you can’t anyway) in the first year, but it means get started. In my first year, I went to networking seminars, got my resume sorted, got my linkedIN profile established and actively went out of my way to meet dietitians.

2.Find a mentor.

Dietetics is a fabulous field. It’s filled with opportunities far beyond most careers. For example, you could work privately in your own or someone else’s practice, be in clinical, food service, public health or for a food company as a consultant. The problem is; where do you start? I would recommend that you start talking with your lecturers. They are a wealth of knowledge. Show you are keen and they will help you, or recommend someone who can. A mentor is a fantastic way to give you guidance and help you find your path.

3.Volunteer (in the right places).

I know, it’s been said time and time again. But it’s true. The reason why I am writing this profile right now is because 6 months ago I volunteered to help at Dietitian Connection, and since then I have met so many people in the industry who have helped me so much to move forward. What I have learned is far beyond the time I have put in, and the connections are invaluable.

What’s one interesting fact about you?

It’s more of an achievement than a fact, but my wife and I once cooked for 10 hours straight with no breaks, serving 150 customers by ourselves. The only complaints were that we were “a little slow”. Haha! Suffice to say, I was very proud of our efforts!