You are currently not logged in. Please log in here.

Alumna of the month – September 2013

Jennie Wallden
MSc International Marketing, 2002

Robert Humphreys

Having completed the MSc International Marketing at LSBU, Jennie Wallden returned to her native Sweden to begin her career in marketing. It was, however, Jennie’s lifelong passion for cooking and support from her husband that motivated her to audition for the popular cooking show, Masterchef, a competition which she won this year.

As a Swedish celebrity Chef, Jennie Wallden frequently appears on TV, radio and makes public speeches about food trends. When she goes to the supermarket to pick ingredients for her next gourmet dish, she is often recognised in the street and admits she had to get used to signing autographs. She recently took time out from her busy schedule to speak with the LSBU Alumni Association about her new found fame: “It’s strange because I only went into it thinking it was just a fun adventure I am now living my dream.”

Jennie was born in South Korea and moved to Sweden at the tender age of six. Yet it was these first few years living in North Asia that made a mark on the young girl as she recalled her first forays into the world of food preparation: “I had always been interested in cooking since I was a child and I remember spending a lot of time with my grandma in the kitchen. So my interest came quite early.”

The move to Sweden gave Jennie the chance to develop her interest and put her basic skills to good use: “I remember the first thing I made. It was my second day in Sweden and I had never even seen bread or butter, but I made sandwiches for parents. I cut the bread and then chopped the parsley which I collected from my mum’s garden.”

Eleven years ago, Jennie had just graduated from LSBU. She chose the university because of its diverse student population and the close relationship she had with her classmates led to stimulating discussions about marketing and life in general: “It was fascinating to learn about different points of view, as well as what life is like in other cultures. I still keep in touch with many former classmates. We are spread across the world; some are based in Singapore, Barcelona, Copenhagen and London. We try to have regular reunions and see each other once a year.”

The transformation from Marketing Director to Celebrity Chef was a natural one for Jennie. She recalls sitting with her husband one evening as they watched Masterchef: “I first saw the show on TV last year and I absolutely loved it. It was so exciting and I would commentate like it was a football game. Then my husband suggested I should apply, so I did!”

Jennie was one of 2,000 applicants and on the first day, she admits to feeling nervous: “It was a totally new situation for me to be in front of the TV cameras, let alone cooking in front of TV cameras!” The first thing she cooked was a Beef Carpaccio with Korean flavours, a culinary theme that she has continued to use with great success

She maintains that her relationship with the other contestants was competitive but also amicable as they all shared a common interest in preparing and presenting the best dishes they could. After a gruelling six weeks, Jennie was through to the final episode. Only one other contestant stood in her way of glory: “I was very nervous as I knew there was a 50% risk of going out. Although I was nervous, I still got a thrill and tried to put this adrenalin to good use. Once I got into “cooking mode”, I was able to completely focus on that. This worked in my favour because I didn’t really feel the pressure. I wanted to win so I knew I needed to perform at my best.” And perform at her best she did. The judges declared her winner of the competition and Jennie was awarded £25,000 with a publishing contract to write her own cook book. She wasted no time and “Flavours in my heart: Korea meets West” was soon released across Sweden.

Jennie now plans to write another cook book and is also considering the many offers she’s had to open a restaurant. She has embarked on a prawn-fishing expedition to Greenland to and will also travel to South Korea in October to be a panellist at the Molecular Frontiers Foundation´s annual symposium with various Nobel Prize nominees and winners.

Reflecting on the past year, Jennie realises the importance of never giving up completely on your wishes: “When you graduate, you begin work and then meet your partner to start a family. Life happens and you can sometimes lose the time to realise the dreams you had. But winning Masterchef has given me the opportunity to live my dream.”