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To the now

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After a few years at The Welcome Hotel it was time to move on. Now, with my memory being as shit as it is, I can’t remember if I went the Forest in Dorrige or Billesley Manor. Anyhow, both place had some great chefs in them and some have gone on to do some amazing things, I am blessed to have been able to work with such talent. The talent also rubbed of on myself and this is how I see my ability, taking a little something from every chef that I have had the pleasure of working with, the way they work, their individual styles and plating techniques, they have all helpd me be creative.

I did work in number of hotels around the area of Warwickshire, including working 90 plus hour weeks in Broadway which was obviously not maintainable long term. There are another 2 places that really shaped me into the pastry chef I am today. The first one being Ardencote Manor. This was ran by a Head Chef that goes by the name of Ian Buckle, he hired me as the pastry chef and also another couple of other gentlemen chefs called Karl Stephen Martin and Stuart Scanlan. These two chaps are great chefs and also have cracking personality’s. We worked together very closely to gain the 2 rosettes that we were hunting for. What a ride we had along the way, long hours, hundreds of people to serve and huge weddings that sometimes broke us, but the camaraderie, laughs and skill made things that little bit easier. The unfortunate part of Ardencote was Ian, a very aggressive personality when things didn’t go his way, sometimes reducing chefs to tears for not performing, a complete bully. This is something that has never sat well with me and it’s not someone I would ever look up to or work for anymore. And with this I left, I advised Martin and Stuart do do the same.

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Out of the fire into the frying pan. I left to try and revive the desserts at a Place in Birmingham called Mustaqs in |Spark Hill. I was sold a dream and made promises and of course these never came to light. I had hit an all time low at this job, reduced to working one day a week just before Christmas with a family to care for. I was in despair and full of worry, I had no choice but to leave and find another job. As any chef knows, trying to find a job in January is so difficult, I ended up being unemployed for over a month until I took on some agency work. I think in these times you learn a whole lot about yourself as a person and a chef. Every chef goes through these incredible down points as the industry can be ruthless, heartbreaking and can devour your soul. You have to be head strong with an indomitable spirit!

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Things do have a funny way of fixing themselves as long as you can think positively, maybe not instantly but it does happen. Luckily for me a development job came up with a six month time limit to cover maternity leave. Ideal, it’s something I’d always wanted to do, so what a fabulous opportunity. It meant living away 5 days a week, which at first was difficult, but the teaching I received about the industry was invaluable. Precise measurement, precision cooking, product development for some of the largest food corporations in the UK. But most of all, the amazing amount of different ways to get longevity out of products (haha, boring I know but this would help later in my career). At the end of my time with Bakkavor i went back to agency work (something I didn’t enjoy) until another couple of opportunities came up.

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One called The Wood Norton and another called Ashornehill in Leamington Spa. I was offered the job as pastry chef at the Wood Norton hotel without an interview as he had seen my work on social media, Hmm, something not right there!. I went to Ashorne to have an interview with a certain Stuart Anderson. Well, what can I say, we hit it off straight away and it felt right. This would be the second place that helped shape me as a pastry chef. I met the team with the Sous chef Matt Wiltshire whom I also hit it of with from day one, what a place. I was given a blank canvas to work with in terms of a pastry kitchen and then I was off to a running start. I loved the place, it was fun, we also had a good time and I was free to develop the kitchen how I wanted it. I eventually got Stuart Scanlan an interview for a CDP job, which I knew he would get not just for his skill but for his character. The circle was complete.

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With Ashorne I took advantage of every opportunity to develop myself and the desserts I was trying to create, reading books on new techniques, search for recipes of things I had never done but had seen on social media. The whole team had great knowledge of the industry and with all this talent in one kitchen brought out the best in all of us. I may have thrown a few hissy fits (like I do if you know me and have worked with me, lol) but this is pure passion for the job.

After a year or so my marriage went down hill and I ended up leaving home. This in turn had a bad effect on work and working at Ashorne. It broke the perfect job, so I thought.

Money was tighter, travel was longer and times were hard. Another job came up closer to home and I had to say my goodbyes, it was heartbreaking.

But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. The job was at Resorts World Birmingham, and what a massive job it was. A team of 7 including myself and a brand new development…….Perfect. Here I am to this day, my wife and I got back together and we now live back in Cornwall, I commute every week and it’s something I love doing, the job is always changing and it’s somewhere I can be creative with my team. So in all, things are great!!

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That rounds things up to today, I will hopefully be talking about the industry, here in Birmingham and the difference around the country. I personal mission to create more successful pastry chef for Birmingham and the surround areas.

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Searching for perfection

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Camborne college, this was a good place to start for me as a level 3 Patisserie student. I was lucky enough to have a great teacher in John Woodhouse (now retired). Although only one day a week, he did manage to teach me a great deal in the basics and understanding of pastry. So, now I had a thirst for it and I needed to get to work in higher establishments to gain more skills. Tredragon hotel was an amazing place and the Chefs, front of house and the managers I worked with are all amazing, but, it wasn’t enough. After a number of years at the hotel I decided to take my first head pastry chefs job at the Headland Hotel in Newquay, this was an amazing building and well known to many. It was a shock to my system to work in such a big establishment and to get a kitchen of my own to work in, but the problem was that I was on my own with no other pastry chef to help. In such a big hotel this was very difficult trying to keep up with the day to day. So when I was on my days off, I wasn’t learning, I was surviving and I couldn’t do this forever. As always, in most cases it’s not the chef that wants to leave the place he or she is working. It’s usually the relentless hours, under pay and not having freedom to experiment with the skills they have. Needless to say I was on the move again.

I took a number of other jobs, not just in Pastry but also in the main kitchen as a larder chef, one of the places I had a great deal or teaching in was the Metropole Hotel in Padstow. We had a great team and everyone had great skills, it was one of the first places after the Tredragon where I felt we are all heading in the right direction. After a year or so, a new head chef and a couple of leavers after, the dynamics changed and this lead to want more but not here at the Metropole.

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I went to try and find a high level kitchen in Cornwall, this proved to be very difficult as there wasn’t many at the time.

I first Tried Chef Ripley’s at Ripley’s in st Merryn (one of Rick Steins Top chefs), unfortunately there wasn’t a position for me at the time. I had tried a number of different places without success. This was a point where I decided to give the whole chefing thing up and to try another trade.

So that’s what I did, I started a course on Network engineering, but I also need to earn some money also. Lucky for me I found a Kitchen hand job going just up the road in St Ervan, and also lucky for me it was at Nathan Outlaws! He did ask why I wanted to wash pots and do kitchen duties when I was already a trained chef, I explained my case and he fully understood and then offered me the job, I excepted.

Well, working with Nathan and Gordon Gray was something different and I had found my way into the kitchen that I wanted to be in, although starting at the bottom again. This didn’t matter to me because I was leaving the industry for good, well at least I thought I was.

It was a small kitchen with just 2 chefs and myself (two incredibly talented chefs). The food that was being produced was outstanding and delicious, I sampled everything that was made, I mean everything. I was in a good position to watch Nathan as he worked and get to know what he was all about, he taught me not to try and over imagine dishes and let the produce speak for itself. Easier said than done, but that’s why he is where he is. He did a lot of reading about different Technics within the kitchen but ultimately he had his own philosophy.

I found this inspiring and gave me a new incite to the catering world, I had fallen in love with food again. Nathan did say that we would take me and Gordon on his next adventure and I felt incredibly humbled by this, But he didn’t need to pastry chefs and that was what I still wanted to do.

After Hannah and I had spoken about our futures, we decided to leave Cornwall and come back to the Midlands, Birmingham to be precise. I also had to tell Nathan I was leaving, and I felt we left things on the wrong terms, this has never sat easy with me to this day. He is and will always be the most talented, friendly and approachable chefs I have ever come across. I decided to leave Cornwall because of the lack of pay and to get the training and development I needed to become a good pastry chef. Also for Hannah to be close to and able to work for her family and get help with childcare.

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The move went well, and the house was massive that we moved into, all I need now was a job. The first place I worked at was The Abby Hotel in Redditch. They had some good chefs there but it wasn’t for me and after a few months working there I found a job that suited me. The Welcome Hotel in Stratford upon Avon. A large hotel with a big pastry kitchen and a Commis chef Margot Germanotti to work with, Ideal. I had full control, of everything and was allowed ingredients that would help me to develop my skills, and together we went from strength to strength. Amongst the start of the Midlands move, Hannah was pregnant with our son Lucas, everything was looking good.

In the next part I will round it up to the present day in as short a way as I can. below are a few pics of the friends we left behind but are still great friends.

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Finding Darryl

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The picture to the left tells a lot, it’s everything I love in one picture. Hannah goes without saying, the Mermaid Inn, our blue and white van, Porth beach and if you look all the way to the back is the Compass Rose cafe. A place of training in many ways.

Even though I had been practicing Taekwondo for a while, I was still an aggressive person when pushed and it didn’t need much pushing, I would still choose to pick fights if I was out on the town, I still had a lot to learn for sure.

It was a major relief to get away from the mundane slog of the factory life, it was also a risk as the job paid well and was secure, but it was a risk I was prepared to take. I believe that in certain points in all our lives we have to take risks to get ahead and to better ourselves, not for others but for ourselves and the people we love. The risk of going to work with master Davies was for a couple of things. Would I be able to take instructions under pressure without getting angry? Would it destroy our growing relationship and heck(!) would I even like it?

(picture to the right are my closest Taekwondo family out at The Maharaja, although, all Taekwondo family are close.)

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I was very lucky to have a teacher and friend in Robin Davies and the Davies family. They let me into their lives and shaped me. Working in the Compass Rose Cafe was different, well for me at the time it was. They used to have people queuing for miles to get hold of the breakfast in the morning. It was amazingly popular, you don’t see queues

like that anywhere unless you travel to London, it shows you what a crafts man and chef Sir really is. I think for a chef, to see the dedication that goes into the food from all members of the family, is inspiring. For me it was a baptism into the world of catering, fast paced, attention to detail and the love for the products you are preparing, something lacking in the industry today. It was taught knife skills, veg prep, time management and cleanliness, valuable assets in the industry. Lots of other things happened at the Compass Rose and the Dojang above but since I’m trying to get to a point I’ll leave that for another time.

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The season was at an end, it was time to take the next move in my journey. Unfortunately I didn’t know what that was. Hannah had just fallen pregnant with Maxim and we needed to move sharpish. We ended up moving to St Eval near Mawgan Porth Cornwall. I needed to find work, the local hotel was The Tredragon Hotel and they didn’t have any chefs jobs at the time. So, I took a job as kitchen porter, but a bloody good kitchen porter, let me tell you. The kitchen had 3 chefs at the time, a head chef and a third chef. I so wanted to be a chef but didn’t think it was going to happen at Tredragon. Until, one day the 3rd chef was having difficulty making instant custard (the third chef did all the desserts and the salad prep)! Well, here was my chance to show that I had a bit of knowledge about cooking. Lucikly for me I had used instant custard a number of time at home (not difficult, or so you would have thought) I showed the chef how to do this with the greatest of ease, it did it in a swift and confident manor, this in turn impressed the head chef. Not simply because of the Instant custard making ability’s but because I was also a sharp kitchen porter, he decided to give me my chance in the kitchen!!! (bingo!!). Unfortunately the 3rd chef was sacked but fortunately for me I got his job. This was the real beginning into pastry. Back then I was thrown into the deep end, 10 desserts (dessert trolley, it got massacred every dinner time) plus 6 different salads. This amount was mental and was difficult for any chef let alone a beginner. I needed to learn more about the industry, it was time to start college, St Austell College one day a week alongside work. Here I could learn my level 1 and 2 in kitchen larder, before I knew it they wanted me in their prospectus; haha, destined for stardom! Here is where I felt at home and finished my year with merits, but that wasn’t enough, I needed more! Camborne College was next on my hit list and pastry was my first choice, shit was getting real!!!!

Again at this point I have a few more words to say. There have been so many people in my life who I hold dearly as close friends, there for whenever I need them and whenever they need me. To all these people I will talk about later after I have caught up the pastry side of things. People from Chaddesden, Allestree, Normanton, Derby and Heanor, big love to all and keep watching x

Below are some pictures of these times and of the close friends in Cornwall who helped us survive in that little tent when we first moved down.

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Cornwall

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1997, I had made it to a new beginning, Hannah and I had nowhere to live apart from a tent, a VW beetle and a small amount of money, and that wouldn’t last long.

Lucky for us it was summer and we decided to camp out in the bird sanctuary in Marazion, haha, rebels to the end. We found work picking flowers which gave us cash in hand (basically beer tokens) for food and other items. The tent was a small two man tent, but we made it our pad. A few weeks past and life was good, we were off the grid, no phones, no rent to pay and free from trouble, Until the local wildlife man rudely told us to pack our tents up and piss off the sanctuary. Well, that was that, we packed up and decided where to go next. Holy-well bay was our next destination, it had everything we needed, sand dunes to set up camp, a pub next to the beach and we could find work easily.

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Perfect, so that’s what happened, work came easily to us and we enjoyed our holiday I suppose. Met some people, had a few more drinks and bbq’s on the beach, nearly got hit by lightning a couple of times in the tent, but we managed to survive. Before you know it, 10 weeks had pasted and sleeping in the tent was beginning to loose it’s appeal. We needed to find a home and real jobs. We found a converted garage to rent for a good price, although it had a massive dog that would try and attack you every time you tried to enter or leave the building.

Hannah was the first to find work at a place called PAL that made medical equipment, I was soon to follow once she was settled. Life was looking on the up, we had a good set of friends and for once in my life I felt secure. PAL was a job that paid well, unfortunately it was a very mundane factory line work that I found very mind numbing. After about a year or so doing the daily grind, I met a young man in the same job called Nick Davies, a loud and confident chap and it just so happened that his dad ran the local Taekwondo school in Porth, right opposite our favorite pub the Mermaid. Was this fate? I think so. Nick asked me to come to a class to try it out and it didn’t take much persuasion as it’s something I’d always wanted to do. His dad also owned a Cafe underneath the Dojang which will also have a massive part in the start of catering career.

I met Master Davies for the first time, he didn’t give much away at first and I was just another student in the back of the class, I think he needed to size me up first before integrating me into the class. I was still an aggressive person and he knew this, but I stuck at it, going 3 times a week and learning fast. We had moved to another house by then in Quintrell downs, a lovely little house and our first proper house with a garden. It was great, life seemed a lot more sunny and my life, our lives were getting better and stronger.

After I had been doing Taekwondo for a number of months and still working at PAl, I had had enough of the factory and was looking to get out. Master Davies asked if I’d like to work at the Compass Rose Cafe for a season, I accepted, this was the beginning of my career!

At this point I would like to mention My step son Aaron Tidmarsh, who has been in my life since 1996 and turned out to be a strong and clever young man. Also in the photo’s is a lovely woman we knew called Gale Briggs, she was taken away from us after a few years of knowing her, a beautiful soul, We think about you always x

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Into a new life part 2

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My sister Hatty (Sam) was devastated and was lost for words, it all happened on her doorstep and she was totally unprepared for for this, as would anyone. They had only recently been in contact before he passed away, life is cruel.

After the funeral in Scotland I knew that my life needed to change again, I needed to get out, out of Derby. I gathered all my possessions, sold what I could and bought myself camping gear and a rucksack. My best friend Simon said he’d look after my cat whilst I was away, not that I had any idea where I was heading.

I went to see Hannah and told her that I was leaving for a while and that i’m going to head towards Cornwall. This didn’t go down too well and Hannah said that she would join me, I didn’t argue and knew this would be great to have a travel buddy. When ended up hitch hiking down to Cornwall in a day, arriving at Par sands. Camped there for one night and headed to Newquay. Newquay was a nice town, full of life and gave me a chance to forget. We had a great month in Cornwall together, lots of laughs and met some lovely people whilst working and earning a few pennies, we also enjoyed pissing them up the wall, after all, isn’t that what holidays are for?

It was time to head back to reality, back to Derby. When we got back Hannah went her way and I went mine thinking that we would see each other soon, this didn’t happen. When I returned I found that I need to find somewhere to live because my flat had gone to someone else. If I didn’t act quick I’d be homeless. I eventually found a flat just outside of the city, it was a horrible, dirty little room. It had a shared kitchen and shower and they weren’t looked after. I was in a worse position than when I left. Having a cat in such a place didn’t work out too well and one day she also left me, leaving me on my own again. I think this was an ultimate low and couldn’t believe how life could be so cruel. It couldn’t have got any worse, no money, no food and no life, taking my own life at this point did cross my mind, but that’s not who I am.

Luckily, on a night out at the rock house in Derby I met a great friend, Andy who said that I could stay with him for a while until I found my feet (this was after a few months after Andy and I bonded you see). This was the life line I need, I stayed with Andy for a couple of months and then moved out and in with another friend Lisa, just up the road from Andy’s and it was our own place, it felt great.

Hannah and I had found each other again and thing were going great until she told me that she was leaving and moving to Cornwall. By now I had been used to things or people coming and going in my life and didn’t think it would affect me. I was wrong.

I missed her a great deal, not long after she left I received a phone call from Hannah asking me if I wanted to come down and live there. What did I have to loose? It didn’t take me long to decide, so again I sold everything I had to get money (which wasn’t much) to travel with, said my goodbyes to all my closest friends and off I went again. Hitchhiking on my own was a good experience and something I enjoyed a lot as it took no money at all. I managed to get all the way to Newquay and even managed to meet Hannah after she had finished work at the Atlantic Hotel.

This was it! The start of a new life, a begin for us both but to become a rebirth for me.

At this point I would like to thank my Derby friends that helped me in my darkest times. Sally, Simon, JP, Ruth, Ant, Jono, Dylan, Andy, Lisa, Dave (may you rest in peace brother) and Julie. With out you guys I couldn’t have made it through the last months in Derby, without you things wouldn’t have gone great. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart and glad that we have a great relationship.

There are many other friends from earlier days who I haven’t mentioned yet, to all of you, I love you all but far too many to mention just yet.

Until next time xx

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Into a new life

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I’m jumping ahead to 1995 when I met my wife Hannah in the city of Derby, where I spent my teenage and some of my adult life. I have skipped to this part because so much happened before then, it will take me ages to get to this stage. I will however, go back to tell you how I got on after my mothers death.

Before I met Hannah, my life was full of ups and downs and I still hadn’t found my place in life. Still getting into fights, trouble with the police and general stupidity. I had good friends at the time so everything wasn’t always bad and we had some great times together. On the other hand, I had made some enemies who made my life hell and made it difficult for me to cope with life, a low point.

In late 95 myself and a friend went to some students house as my friend Keiran knew them. Among the students ( Lucy and Charlotte ) a young Hannah took my eye. We started to chat and I found her very easy to talk to, someone with a great sense of humor. This for me is everything, I found her personality irresistible, infectious and warm, from then on we went everywhere together enjoying each others company.

I mentioned my Brother Neil in the last Blog. Neil and I lived together at this point as he also was struggling with life. My brother and I had lost contact for many years after we had left home in 1989. We were unfortunately forced to live apart, myself went to live in a social workers house (who later was charged as a pedophile) and my brother had his own apartment somewhere in Derby. By the time we had found each other, Neil had developed cataracts and was nearly blind. He had an operation and luckily this was a success.

He eventually moved into my flat but was a little shocked with the way I lived, not that I was messy or anything like that, I was quite the opposite. It was the fact that I smoked cannabis and had a number of parties late at night, but thing that most shocked him was the fact I was still fighting and at times the fight would be outside my front door.

One morning I went to ask my brother if he’d like a cuppa but when I opened his door he had gone, everything had gone! I was so puzzled and didn’t understand what was happening. I asked all his friends but nobody had seen him, where the hell was he? After days of worry, I decided to contact my younger sister Samantha, she was living in Scotland near her father(my step dad), his wife and kids, she then told me that he was living up there near where she was staying. Phew! what a relief, what a shit for not telling me!

So, time went on, after a couple of months in the winter of early 96 I get a knock on the door, it’s a lone policeman, this wasn’t uncommon for me. What was uncommon was the message he delivered, It was a message of a death, my brothers death.

Neil had always had problems with asthma but continued to smoke even with the advise from friends and family not to. The young policeman looked very uncomfortable but said “I’m sorry to say, your brother Neil has passed away in his sleep due to his lungs collapsing in the night, the ambulance service tried to revive him but were unsuccessful as he’d been dead for too long before they got there”. He asked if I was ok, if I needed any help and then handed me a leaflet on seeking help with bereavements.

Again, my life had taken another turn, a painful turn, more painful than any fight or any injury. a pain like no other that couldn’t be fixed.

I will continue in the second part of this blog in a few days as I have to work tomorrow. In the second part I will get to the chefing I promise. What happened to Hannah and myself and I’ll go into who and what inspired me to start in the industry.

Catch you all soon x

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In The Beginning

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Where to start? In the beginning? Well, I won’t start right from the beginning just yet, as it’s a long old story, but I will go into a part of my life where it all went wrong.

When I was around 10 years old my life was enjoyable, I had a sister Samantha, a brother Neil and a mother Juliana. My mother did have a boyfriend at the time, Paul, a good role model for us as children.

The three of us all doing well at school, my mother had 3 different jobs at the time and we all lived in a beautiful house. Juliana, my mother, has Family in Trinidad and Tobago in the West Indies. For us, this was fantastic news as we had just found out that we had another 2 sisters and a brother over there, not to mention countless aunties and uncles, cousins and a Grandma and Granddad.

Mother then booked a holiday for us all to go and visit in January 1981, This was perfect timing for the carnival. So, we arrived, we met my family but only got to meet my brother for a short while as their foster parents didn’t want my mother seeing any of the children. We only saw Marlon (my eldest brother) because he ran away to come visit.

After a couple of months in Trinidad we had to rush back to England for something we knew nothing about. A few weeks past and life was back to normal, I had just joined senior school as a first year and doing very well. My brother Neil was also in the same school and my younger sisters school was only a couple of yards down the road.

A few months past, it was near the end of 1981 mid week when my mothers boyfriend received a call from the hospital saying my mother had a brain hemorrhage and they couldn’t revive her. Paul at the time had to deliver this news to 3 very young children, and as you can imagine we were all completely shocked, devastated, and lost.

I won’t carry on any further than this for now, but I will say that at this point the life change was dramatic, not for all but still painful in many ways. This part of my life was full of sad memories and they continued for many years to come. Not all completely sad as I have met some beautiful people on my journey and these people shaped my future. I could go on forever!

In my next blog I will talk on how I got to become a Pastry chef. I will return later with my school years if I get a good enough response. Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment, goodbye for now. x

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