I quit the magic circle to become ‘the new Nigella’, and I have no regrets

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By Katie King on

Ali Alt waved goodbye to the City to be a full-time foodie

Image via baliboosta.com

Full-time food writer Ali Alt is living the dream. Her blog is nothing short of a foodie’s paradise; no wonder she has been dubbed “the new Nigella” by the Mail Online.

Yet just last year, 28-year-old Alt’s life was a far cry from pizza recipes and blog posts. Then, she was focused on getting through four demanding training seats at magic circle giant Linklaters. Stints in the firm’s corporate, project finance and real estate departments, plus a client secondment in Citibank, saw the King’s College London graduate battling 18-hour days. She didn’t mind:

I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for Linklaters.

A second year philosophy undergrad, Alt admits she was lacking direction. Seeking work experience in every field she possibly could, a taste of magic circle lawyer life at Freshfields got her hooked.

After converting into law, Alt started her Links TC in 2014. There were some exhausting moments — working long hours to tight deadlines is a sure fire social life killer, for starters. But she makes clear to us from the outset: “I didn’t leave Linklaters because I hated my job.”

Team spirit, interesting work, inspirational partners, second to none training and great friends spurred Alt through what could have been a really arduous two years. With, in her words, nothing but love for the top City firm and two associate offers on the table (corporate, litigation), her decision to quit may leave some readers perplexed. She explains:

My now husband used to work at Deutsche Bank, but he left and now owns a restaurant in the City. I watched him wake up everyday feeling so inspired. I began to realise I too could be that inspired by my job.

She continues:

I wanted to be able to dictate my own hours. I dreaded Monday mornings because I never knew how late I was going to be in the office or how my week was going to be. So I knew my career was going to go one of two ways: make partner, or leave and go it alone. And I knew if I went for the second, it would be harder and harder to leave once I’d qualified.

Quitting was a very difficult decision. The security and salary of a magic circle associate position was a pull, and Alt knows her new venture won’t be a money-spinner in the short-term. But, her ‘young working woman making magic in the kitchen’ brand depended on a quick exit. “You live once,” she reflects, “and I knew if I wanted to pursue a career in this field, I had to do it now.”

Alt waved goodbye to the firm, and its sizeable salary, in July 2016 to dedicate her life to cooking and food writing. The dream, she says, is to write a weekly column in a magazine or newspaper. The bigger dream is to have a cooking show and product line. And it would appear Alt is well on her way to foodie fame. The lawyer turned blogger has already amassed over 60,000 followers on Instagram.

Regrets? Alt has none. Though her move out of the law was met with wariness from some, “it’s the best decision I ever made.” She adds:

There are certainly times I miss working with people. When you’re working for a company, especially a big company like Linklaters, there’s a ladder and a structure and people giving you praise and telling you you’re doing great. Now I’m making my own path. And sure, there are moments I miss Linklaters and I miss my friends there, but I really don’t regret what I’ve done with my career to date, not at all.

Not least because a legal training from one of the top firms in the world can only come in handy in her journey to Nigella-level stardom. Gazing over contracts, for example, is that much easier with commercial lawyer glasses on. “I know my training contract will help me in the future in everything I do,” she concludes, “how could I possibly regret it?”

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