Flavour/taste/texture and looks

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Patisserie, one of the hardest jobs in the kitchen because there is nowhere to hide and no corners to cut. Ofcourse there are chefs out there that cut corners or say “Nah, pastry is easy, I don’t bother weighing it, throw it together and it just works!”, well balls to that.

There is such an unbelievable amount to take into account when trying to become a pastry chef and becoming the pastry chef you’ve always wanted to be. Watching TV and seeing beautiful creations that are made in minutes, books that are filled with dreamy desserts that are picture perfect and visiting your favourite places with the best patisseries, these can all inspire you to be better and more creative but the reality is that 60-70% of aspiring pastry chefs will never get to that standard. My theory to this is that you need to have an artistic level of thinking with a scientific mind, looking at the ingredients at a molecular level and not just something that you use to hold things together. I’ve been a pastry chef for over 20 years and have also worked with many chefs and pastry chefs over those years. Some extremely talented chefs and others that seem to just to it for a living. With pastry, it has to be a career choice, it has to be something you absolutely love and live for, there is no in-between.

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I honestly believe that anyone can become a decent pastry chef with the right training and guidance but I don’t believe that anyone can become a great pastry chef. I’m very lucky in my job to be able to have a team and to be able to teach within my workplace. This isn’t always an easy ride for me and can be extremely frustrating and take me to the edge of sanity at times. When I have young chefs, older chefs or chefs that in their own right have great skill, come to me because they want to learn what I do or want to be where I’m am in my career, I say to them “There is no easy route, there is no cutting corners, work hard, open your mind and believe”. I feel that with these ethics you can create your path.

But, missing any one of these parts will result in failure. If you cut corners the public will notice, if you don’t work hard enough, all will notice. If you don’t open your mind you’ll never develop and if you don’t believe in yourself or have an “I can do this” attitude, then give up.

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This then brings me onto taste, texture, flavour and looks. These elements are also a must as we eat with our eyes first, so looks are very important. For a pastry chef just to plop something on a plate without a care in the world is mostly unheard of, even at the early stages of your career as a pastry chef, most have a passion with presentation. This in turn will develop over time. Taste and flavour are probably the next part before texture. I’ve eaten in quite a number of restaurants and hotels and I would say 70% of the desserts I have eaten have been of a pour quality, Simply because it has been style over substance, looks great on a plate but has tasted of nothing but sugar. With me, I work on the flavours first, test them with many different people, well before I decide on what it will look like on the plate. Then we go for the look, this part is highly important as it should go without saying but again these things can be missed, crazy you say, but it happens! As I mentioned earlier, we eat with our eyes first then we get the aroma, lastly the taste. These are the only guides a pastry chef needs to understand to be successful and to have a good understanding of patisserie. Knowledge is the key to all, train hard, listen to others but most of all be true to your passion and yourself. Remember what you came into the industry for, to excite the public with your flavours and impress with your talents and skill as a pastry chef.

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I have made pastry my own without guidance from others, without having to dive into other chefs cookery books or scour the internet for recipes for my next dessert creation. I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing and I have asked colleges on how to formulate certain recipes in the past but I do feel that creativity comes from the soul. So if and where you can, develop your own recipes, your own creations and style. They don’t always work and can be very frustrating in the development, but this is how we learn in life, by making mistakes. And remember, a recipe is only a guideline and something that you don’t need to follow, rules are there to be broken!

Any new talent coming through ???????

What’s happening with the standard of chefs and pastry chefs coming into the industry today ??

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Many young chefs have applied to work for me at the resort which I think is something special in it’s self, pleased that they want to join our team. The first thing I say to them is “what is it that you want by joining the pastry team?”, the answer they usually give is that they want to learn how to be the best they can in patisserie, Great!!. Their CV’s are pristine, fresh out of college with a selection of beautiful photo’s, lovely creations and seemingly the right attitude for the career they have chosen. Well this is what you would have thought, but this couldn’t be more further from the truth. I never shy away from saying at the begin that this job is extremely hard work from the get-go, so if you are willing to roll with the punch’s then I’m the man to teach you the ways of fine patisserie.

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In the begin things go well for the new arrivals, they are keen and buzzing with enthusiasm, their minds charged to absorb the difficult and complex dishes we are about to create for our hundreds of guests to enjoy. I try not to overload them with too many things at once because that in itself is counter productive, lets walk before we start to run. Don’t get me wrong though, even the basics are difficult to master and this is where the realization comes in for the younger chefs on how different it is from the easier college lives or where they have had a job in which the work wasn’t as precise and detailed as they’d imagined. This is a wake up call and can be quite unnerving for the “more delicate chef” , as the pressure builds and the work load increases, mistakes start to form and cracks start to appear. Before you know it they are handing their notice in or going off on the sick. The resort is a huge build where Patisserie plays a large role, not only to the customers love what we do but the team enjoy the benefits of our creations, they bring joy to a stressful day. This in turn maximizes our work load and every single item that comes out of our kitchen has to be on point !

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I say this as this is what I need the younger chefs to understand when they come and join the team. Only through hard work and dedication to the job can you achieve the skill it takes to deliver this kind of quality. I feel that they watch too much TV where they think everything is golden and things will fall in their laps without the hard work involved. Cooking programs and social media butter the lifestyle up making it look glamorous and appealing to the younger generation, which is great, but it doesn’t prepare them for the reality of the kitchen. I didn’t just appear here fully equipped with the knowledge and skill, no mate, that’s not how it works. It’s taken me many years of long hours, struggles and determination to get where I am today. Complete perseverance and pushing myself to the limit, sleepless nights and crying over cake, whatever it took to expand my knowledge. Unfortunately this is what is lacking with the chefs of today, they can’t do the hours, they don’t want to work hard and they don’t understand what a chef means. It’s a trend that is very worrying for the future of patisserie in and around Birmingham as we already have a lack good creative minds. I would like to say this to all want to be chefs, It’s one of the toughest industries going but the rewards get be fantastic as long as you put in the effort, I have had the privilege of creating great pastry chefs, these are the ones that to what is needed to achieve their goals. So if you are thinking about leaving college to become a pastry chef or chef, please remember, work hard, listen and develop. This in turn will boost your skill level and drive you to achieve the goals you are aiming for, or don’t bother as the job will eat you alive!

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In the thick of it !!

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Well I can honestly say that Bharat and myself weren’t smiling in the first round of the Bake Off, it was a blur. From the time they said “GO !” to the finish on the first day, I still don’t know where the time went. This is where we had to make the Conversation (not talking between ourselves) and the fruit tart (our own version).

We had this planned out to the last minute, the problem was that we had no bloody idea what a “conversation tart” was, it also appeared that no one else did either. We did our best from searching the internet and books and began to get a picture of what was needed.

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When it came to making this on the show it didn’t turn out as well as in the picture I’m afraid to say but the idea was good saying that we had no clue. This we thought was meant to throw us, a spanner in the works and to test our skills as pastry chefs. Bharat and I thought we had done badly with this as we decided to change things the night before. We shouldn’t have done this, go with your gut instincts….always). Then we saw everyone elses weren’t great, apart from the Hilton’s team, they were all pretty bad. That was the saving grace and so didn’t do too badly after all.

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The fruit tart was a good one for us, well at least we thought so. It’s something we do on a regular basis so we could apply this to the task in hand. Everything we did for the tart in the show went to plan but this we only managed to get done in the nick of time with seconds to spare.

The problem we had with the tart and the Conversation is the fact that before being judged they were left out for over 2 hours before tasting began. This wasn’t good and we felt it was unfair to judge delicate pastries when they weren’t in the best condition, and it showed. But again, compared to others we didn’t do too bad. That was the first day over and done with. On to the next traumatic day!

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What can I say, this part of the show for me was the most difficult in the entire program. We went into this not understanding the brief fully, or so we are told this. As we understood the brief we had to make a center showpiece in a black forest style of our own making and desserts to feed a certain amount of people. If you look at the picture I think we did this, saying this was our first ever showpiece. I don’t think we did a bad job. We tested the Entermet with so many people before we went on the show and we knew we had great flavours. Well, things didn’t go to plan. The heat in the studio kitchen was not good for chocolate work, everything we did in white chocolate just fell apart, the bands that are supposed to be highly finished looked terrible and the stress was getting to us…a lot !! Well me for sure, haha.

We got it done in the end and then it was judging time, eeeek. The first ones to be judged were the Hilton. Their showpiece was stunning and we knew that ours was going to get ripped apart when the time came. Judging was brutal as it went down the chain and after a very long wait it was our turn. They didn’t hold back in anyway shape or form, we got judged royally for a good 15 mins and I could feel my frustration rising but I knew I couldn’t talk back as this could have consequences. By then end I was a broken man with nowhere to run, I cried for the first time in many years and it felt like I couldn’t cook at all. What the hell was I doing on this stupid show!!?.

Elimination time and to be honest we thought it would be us going, but it wasn’t. Chris and Bjarni from the Warren unfortunately bit the dust, it was a sad time but also we were extremely thankful we survived to the next stage. After saying our goodbyes, i turned to Bharat and said “We have to come back fighting for the next round!” and boy, we did just that.

New Opening

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I thought I’d take a small break from the Bake off, not meaning that I won’t mention it, but just to give you an incite to recent events.

As you may or may not know from my social media that I’m currently involved in a new restaurant at the resort with Head Chef Aaron Darnley. This is something special and looks to be a great success,

but I had forgotten how hard an opening is and the pressures to “get things right”.

It’s not just about getting it right for you the consumer but for us as chefs also, this in itself brings added pressure to an already pressurized job. Openings aren’t for everyone, as they can be daunting and do not always run to plan, you also have to remember that you are at work with many different kinds of people (designers, backers, builders, chefs, front of house and the list can go on), for this you have to be very adaptable and have an open mind, especially in a corporate sense and environment. With all of this taken into account plus the pressure of staying in budget throughout can be mind boggling and frustrating at the best of time, but, and this is a big “but”, it’s not all rough sailing. We as chefs love a challenge and there is no better stage than a new restaurant. Here we can make a mark and it’s our chance to make a great impression on the public. My favorite thing is to develop new dishes, create menu ideas and testing them on the team and family. We tried so many many different dishes before we opened Sky By The Water at Resorts World Birmingham until we found a selection of perfection.

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I’m a huge believer in big punchy flavours and getting the most out of the ingredients you have in front of you. So many times have I been disappointed by the dishes that have been served to me in supposed “high end restaurants” simply because they lack flavour or seasoning. Style over substance, well you need both style and substance with bags of flavour. So, as you may have seen from Instagram we’ve all been hard at work trying to get things right, hopefully we’ve done just that, the public will surely tell us right or wrong in any case.

It’s has been good for the pastry team also to get back into the restaurant after the demise of Robata Bar And Grill a couple of years ago (not to say we haven’t been busy) as I believe that platted desserts allow the chefs imagination to flow as do new openings. These are blank canvases for us to paint, and I being an artist, relish in this.

After a few hiccups we got over our creative differences and pushed forward to ensure that the opening would be a success and something myself, Aaron Darnley, his team and also my team can be proud of. I must also mention our marketing team who have helped get things right and ready for the launch and are still continuing the push. The restaurant is now open for dinner and afternoon tea, we look forward to see you all soon!

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Meeting the Crew and Other chefs for the first 6

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All training done, well, all that we could possibly fit in as we didn’t know what we would be walking into. D day had arrived, the brief for the first part was clear……. ish. We packed as much equipment as we could in the car (sorry pastry kitchen for leaving you a little short, but needs must) and set off the the location for filming. Bharat and I had mixed feelings on what to expect and what was expected from us, but we both knew it would be hard work physically and mentally, so we thought we were well prepared, oh how wrong we were!

We arrived at the destination where we unloaded and meet some of the crew that would be looking after us during filming, here also is where we met the other 5 pairs of chefs for the first time.

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We all have our own thoughts about what to expect from other chefs, but here we met a fabulous bunch of chefs. It’s not often that you meet chefs with happy, strong and lovable personalities but here they all were in the same competition. This in a way made it more difficult as you don’t want to hurt the feelings of the people you like, on the other hand, we were all there to win.

After unloading all our equipment, saying hello to all and trying to work out the lay of the kitchen, we headed back off to where we would be sleeping for the next few days. Booked in and off to the pub to bond over dinner with the chefs and baby sitters (to make sure we didn’t get too drunk).

After we were fed and watered and back to our rooms ready for the next days filming, I had a little time to go over the brief with Bharat and then some sleep. Before I could get to sleep all I could think about that night is “What the hell have I let myself in for!”. Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep that night.

The next day came, the taxi was ready to pick us all up at 5.30am (it was going to be a long day for sure), everyone was still not quite awake and slightly nervous on what was to come.

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The time had arrived, after a couple of photo’s and a chat with the film crew, we were lead into the studio to get familiar with the surroundings again as things had changed due the amount of cameras and camera men. Here we also met Cherish and Benoit for the first time. I had followed these guys all of my Career and they are Chefs that I respect because of their talent and what they have achieved in their careers.

I was a little starstruck but they soon put us at ease, well as much as they could under the circumstances. It was time for filming to start and the competition to begin……..Eeek! the butterflies began and dry mouth set in. “Chefs please get on your marks, Ready to go in 3-2-1!!!!!!!!”

On the next blog I will take you through the mayhem on the first part and the pure emotion on the second part.

Saying Goodbye

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As some of you may or may not know, Bharat Chandegra has left the building! After 3 and a half years as my pastry Sous chef at Resorts World Birmingham. After the show ended it was inevitable that the offers would come rolling in for us both, Bharat needed to to take the next step in his career and now is as good a time as any. It also allows the other team members to progress further in their careers. I’m am proud that I’ve been able to teach another pastry chef in Birmingham and the fact that people are hunting his skills is fantastic. It’s now time for the next pastry chefs training.

It’s funny, I have had a lot of interest in the position of pastry Sous chef, but out of all that have applied not one was at the skill level that need for this. Although they thought they were but couldn’t do the basics. It’s ok saying that you have worked in all these great places in the country and London, but if the places aren’t teaching you the fundamentals of pastry and all you all day do is platted desserts, well, then there is something lacking in the industry.

It’s something that as a pastry chef you need to be able to teach and learn everything on a daily basis, push yourself to learn the difficult things first and the rest becomes easy. Follow your favorite pastry chefs for inspiration and don’t rely on home cook recipe books to make you a better pastry chef. That comes from making your own recipes, trial and error is the only way forward. We all need to make mistakes before we can get a full understanding of what works. Below is myself and Erik Van Der Veken (Cocoa Barry ambassador) teaching us the knowledge we needed for our showpieces before we went onto the bake off show.

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It is such a valuable thing as a chef that we keep up with the times, keep learning, always ask for help when needed (myself, with a vast network of pastry friends will ask for help when I need it). You can’t do everything yourself without help, yes you can get by but you need the skills of others to help you progress.

I love social media to to a point, I’m not into blurting out my life problems over Facebook or who I hate on Twitter, for other things though it can be very helpful and a form of free advertisement. It has also shaped us as pastry chef, chefs etc, simply because this is where we look to see how we can better ourselves and our techniques. Looking and understanding the way thing are made from a simple picture is an art form in itself and it takes a lot of imagination and creative thought for it to be successful, again mistakes must be made first to succeed. Below is Myself, Florian and Jonathan.

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Learning sugar was a massive turning point again for me. It’s such a difficult thing to master because there are so many things you have to think about when performing sugar showpieces. I was very lucky, and have been able to learn from the best in the business – Florian Poirot. He’s a very clever teacher and doesn’t mince his words when teaching you, if it’s crap then he’ll tell you! This part of him I love as you know when you are doing it wrong. This is how to teach, not to pander to peoples feelings but to get under the skin to force them to do better. It works and it helped me no end when it came to competition time on The Bake Off, for this I thank you Florian. Keep learning chefs, ask for advice and keep in touch and keep sharing, because you can’t take it with you when you die.

My next blog with be about Bake off The Professionals

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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