My first taste of the hospitality industry was working at sea. My older brother was in the Merchant Navy and he was working a summer on Sealink ferries. I followed in his footsteps and spent a year traversing the North Sea working in the Galley which was a challenging experience and an eye opener into the realities of the industry. After gaining a diploma in Advanced Professional Cookery at Colchester Institute, I started work at the Portman InterContinental on Portman Square, London, where I worked for a year before moving to Jersey to work at The Old Court House Hotel.
My next job was at the Michelin starred Le Talbooth in Dedham. During the next two years I progressed from Chef de Partie to Sous Chef in this busy restaurant and I started to realise that all of the smallest details count. The pieces of the jigsaw started to come together in my mind as I realised the importance of teamwork, staff and equipment.
My grandparents had been through World War II and their no waste mentality had rubbed off on my mum who was a great cook, she was a big fan of offal and of cooking the “cheaper cuts”, I remember tucking into Braised Lamb’s Hearts on a Saturday lunchtime after she had finished her days baking. Another of her well loved dishes has also stayed with me, the Lamb Neck Suet Pudding here at the Masons is based on the recipe from my Mum’s Steak and Kidney Pudding. These early memories have taught me to make the most out of ingredients, even the most simple. My Grandfather made amazing Chutneys and Pickles and this has also spilled over into some of our cooking today. In fact the Rhubarb Chutney we make here is an old family recipe!
But it was at The Waterside Inn, Bray, under the tutelage of mentor Michel Roux, that I truly developed as a chef, I learnt everything about cooking food, respecting ingredients and equipment, guest care, running a kitchen and running a business. I worked for Michel Roux for 18 years, 12 as his Head Chef and I was part of the team that moved The Waterside from 2 to 3 Michelin Stars, an accolade it still retains today. During my lengthy time working at the highest culinary levels, I learnt that consistency and striving for continual improvement are the keys to success.