A former Royal Navy chef is baking her way to success as an entrepreneur with her own brownie business using the skills she learned in the Armed Forces.
Chloe Toussaint’s business ‘Chloe's Brownies' is now doing so well that she’s even planning to employ other veterans in the future as the business grows.
Chloe, 30, and from Grenada, has turned her love of baking into a successful venture after making the transition to civvy street.
She said that she never imagined that she would one day become a baker as she had initially wanted to train as a Physical Training Instructor in the military but was instead offered a career as a Royal Navy chef.
That career path not only helped her discover a love for baking but is also helping her carve out a promising future after leaving service.
She said: "Every time I put anything out there, I'm like Navy, Navy, Navy.
"I always have to give thanks, let people know that I didn't just open a cookbook."
Watch: Forces News speaks to Chloe Toussaint about thanking the Royal Navy for the skills she learned while serving.
With a determination to join the Armed Forces, Chloe saved just enough money to travel from her home in Grenada to the UK in 2011.
A decade later, she now owns 'Chloe's Brownies', a shop in Lincolnshire that opens at the weekend, and she sells her baked goods online.
Her plan is to open another shop next year and if possible, and she hopes to hire ex-forces personnel. She believes veterans really know what it means to work hard, saying:
"If I can reach out to ex-forces first, I just know we'll have the bants, we'll be able to work hard, it's something for them to do, know what they're talking about when they're talking about their career previously and stuff like that.
"It's like a family. When you say whether you're from the RAF or the Army, I get you, so I hope to do that next year."
The successful entrepreneur did not have a passion for cooking growing up. Her experience in the kitchen stretched as far as helping her British-born Mum while she cooked a Sunday roast.
Watch: Forces News speaks to Chloe Toussaint about wanting to employ veterans in the future.
Becoming a chef in the Royal Navy
Chloe was unaware that she could not, at the time, apply directly to become a Physical Training Instructor. She was advised to become a chef first and then, eventually, transfer over when the time was right.
However, by that time, Chloe had started to really enjoy her work as a chef, so chose to stick with the unexpected career she had trained so hard for.
After completing phase one of training - where she learned discipline, teamwork, weapon handling skills and ran more than she had ever done before - she moved on to phase two, which she describes as being amazing and the best days of her life. Her culinary teachers instilled in her a love of cooking and being a chef. She said:
"It's actually like a fast-tracked school, the culinary school.
"You learn two years of cooking, baking, nutrition, hygiene, food safety within six months.
"The perk? You got to eat what you cooked so I was never hungry."
Chloe's first ship was HMS St Albans, which she found to be quite a culture shock.
She was considered the 'baby chef' on board, even though she was 22. She had a book of tasks that needed to be completed – simple jobs such as cleaning potatoes, peeling carrots, cooking pasta and making soup.
Determined to get on with her career and because she did not want to be the 'baby chef' anymore, Chloe finished her task book within a month.
At this stage, the young chef requested a 'swap draft' – when you ask to swap with another sailor on a different ship - because she felt like there were so many 'baby chefs' to compete with that promotion was out of reach.
The ship she ended up switching to was the Type 45 destroyer, HMS Daring. It was here that she met her husband Adam who was a Weapons Engineer and who is now a Royal Naval Reservist and Recruitment Officer for the Senior Service. She said:
"I met my husband on HMS Daring and then we did a deployment together.
"If you can last through a deployment together you can go through anything together."
Chloe thoroughly enjoyed her time on HMS Daring because she had the freedom to express herself by putting on Caribbean-themed nights with food such as curried goat, jerk chicken and rice and peas.
Within a year, she had proven herself to be capable, responsible and a good leader and this led to a promotion to the rank of Local Acting Leading Hand and she finally had her own 'baby chef'.
After HMS Daring, Chloe moved to HMS Defender and then worked for the Second Sea Lord and took part in cooking competitions where she had to do precise, Michelin-style cooking.
When she eventually returned to HMS St Albans, the baker became the Galley Manager, which she said she found incredibly fun.
Chloe decided to leave the Royal Navy in 2019 because she ran the risk of not seeing her husband for up to 18 months at a time if their ships deployed one after another.
Transition to civvy street
The Royal Navy veteran assumed that with her culinary skills, finding a job on civvy street would be easy, but the reality was very different. She found work packing boxes in a factory and eventually, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, cooking and serving food in a dementia care home.
At this stage, Chloe was a veteran and Royal Naval Reservist – the perfect person to work in recruitment for the Senior Service - so she applied for the role and after a stint working as a chef in Peterborough, found herself back working for the Royal Navy, this time on land and out of the kitchen.
Chloe's husband encouraged her to start selling her homemade brownies. She knew they would be popular as she had baked them for her own wedding, and also once won a competition for them during phase two training.
She was not keen on the idea of selling her brownies at first but gave it a go at the same time as her recruitment job. She said:
"My husband was like 'it's going to be a lot of hard work' and I was like 'nothing's as hard as cooking for all of these people on ship'.
"I'm one of those people that likes proving people wrong. As soon as you start doubting yourself, things start to fail.
"You need to have a strong head and if you want something just go for it, don't let anyone tell you anything different. No matter who they are."
Watch: Forces News speaks to Chloe Toussaint about her determination to succeed.
She saw a lot of success within a matter of months so had to expand and move out of her kitchen. She asked her parents for a loan so that she could build a mini-bakery in her garden, which they agreed to do.
At this point, a social media influencer with more than 100,000 followers on Instagram recommended Chloe's baked goods, which created a flurry of interest.
Eventually she ran out of space to produce the quantity needed to keep up with demand, so she decided to open a shop with a kitchen on site.
Many people have been flabbergasted by Chloe's ability to bake in bulk while being surrounded by boxes and boxes of brownies and cookies but, as she said, being a chef in the Royal Navy prepared her for a chaotic working environment. She said:
"When you have to feed 150 people this becomes easy, this is nothing."
Chloe's brownies all start from the same basic ingredients and she started with an American-style mixer but, as demand grew, she invested in a larger version, saying:
"Not as big as what you get on ship because that was about £5,000 or £8,000 but half the size and it works just as well for what I need it for.
"The Navy did teach me about cooking in bulk, for real."
Life after service
Chloe credits the Royal Navy for giving her all the tools she needs to succeed in life. Chloe said that some people in Grenada believe that once you are in the Royal Navy that is your career for life but for this veteran, that has not been the case. She said:
"The Navy's a fantastic career.
"You can take your trade or discipline – fitness, mindset – you can take all of that and put into something on civvy street and do something that you want to do."
Chloe is no longer a Reservist after leaving in October 2021 to focus on her brownie business. She has not been home to Grenada for 12 years so plans to incorporate the taste of the Caribbean into her baking over Christmas, saying:
"I always try to incorporate Caribbean stuff over Christmas time like figs, cinnamon, nutmeg and lots of people love that.
"I also do a rum cake so I've had fruit soaking in two bottles of rum for a month now, just taking in all that rum."
Watch: Forces News speaks to Chloe Toussaint about her transition from the Royal Navy to civvy street.