geoffrey cheng


Geoffrey Cheng (Lincoln College, 2010) shares his journey from studying Engineering to training in culinary arts

Published: 6 June 2024 

Author: Tiya Muluzi"


Read the extract of the interview:

What drew you to study at Oxford?

Originally, it was simply about applying to the best university. It was only when I became a student that I truly appreciated what Oxford means; it's the culture and the research-focused academic environment. My tutor used to tell me that Oxford is not Oxford because of the fancy buildings; it's really because of the people and the unique culture we have.

You studied Master of Engineering at Oxford. What inspired you to delve into this field of study?

One thing that attracted me to engineering is the idea of bringing innovation to life and using technology to improve daily lives. Engineers always have a mission or some problem to solve, and I think studying engineering helped me enhance my problem-solving and analytical skills. This fascinates me. Also, a fun fact: most Fortune 500 CEOs have degrees in engineering, so you can see that engineering and tech have a significant impact worldwide.

What were the key milestones in your career since leaving Oxford? 

When I graduated, like many others, I wasn't sure which area to pursue. Some industries seemed more interesting to me, some less. I chose consulting because I love its problem-solving nature, project-based work, and the potential to improve companies. I started as a Management Consultant and have been in consulting for eight years, working on different projects. I also had the chance to work in a startup as a Product Manager, focusing on software.

What motivated you to pursue additional training in culinary arts and wine tasting, and how do these interests complement your professional life?

I have always had a huge passion for food, wine, and drinks. I was lucky enough to take a few months off my career to go to Paris and study at Le Cordon Bleu one of the top culinary schools in Paris. I did some training there and managed to secure an internship at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London, a three Michelin-star restaurant. This was an eye-opening experience for me. Coming from a consulting background and being able to explore different industries is always fascinating. I learned that cooking, like many things in life, is about planning ahead, execution, discipline, and communicating with others in a stressful, time-pressured environment. I love that environment and it has helped me adopt these skills in real life.

Any advice for alumni interested in pursuing a similar career path?

For new alumni interested in technology, I always ask what specific area in tech they are interested in. Most importantly, tech is just a tool to solve problems; the problem being solved is always the more important part. What benefit does it bring? You can be very interested in a certain industry or a specific application of technology. It is crucial to relate both tech and the problem to solve, and most importantly, how to make lives easier.

In general, my advice to new alumni is to be confident in yourself. Oxford is excellent at challenging you, making you learn, and pushing you to your limits. There will be times when you feel worried, stressed, or doubtful, but remember, if you can succeed at Oxford, you can achieve a lot in the world. There is nothing as complex as what you learned at Oxford. For example, when I did my turbo machinery modelling, it was never as complex in real life. What you learn at Oxford in terms of skills—problem-solving, analytical skills, teamwork, communications, and resilience in overcoming challenges—is very important. Make sure you use and replicate these skills in your real life.

You are the President of the Oxford10 community. Can you tell us more about this community?

Oxford10 is a London-based alumni group. The "10" signifies people within 10 years of their graduation, allowing us to focus on early to mid-career individuals. We aim to build a community, a platform for like-minded Oxford alumni to network and meet people. We do this through various events, such as social gatherings, museum visits, and wine tastings. This platform allows us to meet and talk to each other.

From your experience in talking with new alumni in London, what common challenges are they facing?

Talking with recent graduates, especially undergraduates and masters graduates entering the job market, we see some common themes in the challenges they face. From a career perspective, the lack of real entry-level jobs has become more obvious in recent years. 

Most companies now require 1-2 years of experience for entry-level jobs. For those who get a job, many find navigating the corporate world challenging. They transition from a structured academic system to the corporate world of 40-60 or sometimes even longer hours a week, often with a lack of guidance on what good looks like. Some feel lost and struggle with work-life balance. Outside of work, financial stress is a key challenge. We all know about the low income on entry-level jobs while the cost of living has been rising. Additionally, there's a learning curve with personal finance and everyday admin tasks like understanding payslips, taxes, pensions, and renting a flat. Lastly, the lack of channels for meeting new friends outside of work is a challenge. Not everyone is lucky enough to maintain the same friendship group throughout the years. Some find it hard to make new friends and build sustainable connections outside of work.

Can you tell us about your involvement with the University of Oxford Alumni Board and what this role means to you?

The University alumni board advises on how the University can engage alumni with engagement and strategy. The board consists of individuals from various professional backgrounds, locations, and experiences. My focus is on digital engagement and young alumni. It's interesting to give back to Oxford based on my experience after a few years of graduating. 

For example, we're discussing how to digitally engage alumni more efficiently. Oxford is a complex organisation with the university, colleges, and departments, making it challenging to have a holistic view of alumni engagement. We're exploring ideas to digitally engage alumni so every alumnus feels a connection after leaving the school.

How has it influenced your connection to the Oxford community?

I always love coming back to Oxford; it feels like a home away from home. A few things encourage me to return. At times, I reflect on the challenges we face in life, but remember that at one point, you were working on the most advanced, highest level of a certain topic academically. It's encouraging to think about our pastimes and get new ideas after leaving Oxford.

What's next?

As a recent graduate, you do everything to get opportunities, whether for learning or professional growth. After gaining experience and establishing your expertise, it's worth considering what interests you the most. For example, I have always had a passion for food and wine and a strong background in technology. Now, I am looking for ways to combine the two, whether in food automation or different ways to experience and interact with food. That's something I'm very interested in.

How has your time at Oxford inspired your career?

Don't be afraid to take up a challenge. As a student, you know you're not good at anything at the start until you put in the effort and get the right resources, whether peers, tutors, or support, and try to grow and excel. Similarly, in my career and real life, when I face a new project, I think about the resources I need to succeed. The first day probably won't be as good as you want it to be, but there's always a learning curve to overcome. Being at Oxford, you probably experienced that learning curve many times and can use this experience to help in the future. Additionally, Oxford provides many opportunities; it may unlock doors, but it's up to you to open them, push through, select your path, and pursue it. The more opportunities you pursue, the higher the chance of success. However, you need to put in the effort and planning to achieve your goals.

What do you miss about Oxford?

I miss the people and the intellectual conversations we had. Oxford is a unique place where you can casually overhear conversations about astronomy or politics even in McDonald's or Pret, which you rarely experience elsewhere. Having those intellectual conversations, whether within your profession or outside, is very fascinating.


Discover more about the Oxford10 community:

Explore our website: and join the Oxford10 community

Connect with us on LinkedIn:

Follow us on Instagram:

Find Geoffrey on LinkedIn: