Food….where did the affair start?
Yeah, I’d love to tell you it was the truffle we foraged for as kids, the leafy vines that straddled our garden, the stunning markets bursting with local produce….in truth we didn’t have such things in downtown Ramsbottom in the 60’s! (how things have changed there NOW btw!)
So, I hear you say, did you learn at your Grandmothers knee, I bet your Mother was a wonderful cook ? Nope….all too busy working! Although I didn’t realise it at the time it was the glorious produce of the North that stirred my soul – we ate black pudding boiled in cauldron like pans on Bury market, fresh Lancashire cheese so crumbly we picked up bits for hours. And Tripe …the stench from hell but with a taste of heaven. Eccles cakes still warm from the bakery ….weird all this shizzle is the done thing now!!
Convinced that all our local food was surely rubbish I first set off for France. A static caravan in Frejus since you ask! Being English we naturally took loads of food with us; I mean what could the French Riviera give us that Ramsbottom couldn’t?! Truth was I was mesmerised, not by the masses of stunning fruit, vegetables, fish, meat and herbs, but you could buy an Emmental frappe…….!! A love had begun, La Belle France!
So, off to boarding school in Yorkshire – I loved it! The trips out to eat with my parents when they came to visit My Father, a printer in Colne, knew all the decent places….things were brewing!
Three hours after my last GCE ‘O’Level, I was heading back to France, working in restaurants, market gardens and markets, I inhaled the near obsession with provenance, the quality of the cooking and something just clicked……we had ALL of this in the Northwest of England – albeit not quite so sunny – but the fire inside me started!
Back to the Motherland, spells with Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White stoked the fire to another level and I then went to the restaurant my parents had acquired and off we went on the classic ‘posh’ French route. It worked for a while …..
La Belle Epoque, Knutsford, was fabulous – big, bold, busy, frequented by celebrities, yet recessions are no respecters of history – the sh*t ran deep – a solution was needed and my love of the Northwest had come full circle …..now on trend (it was the early 90’s remember!) was bury black pudding, salty Cheshire cheese, sandy local asparagus – sitting alongside classic dover sole, lobster and guinea fowl. The Belle Epoque ‘Brasserie’ was born and will always be a very special offspring!
Media offers started to come in from Regional and National TV, cooking with the Hairy Bikers, Simon Rimmer, and Matt Tebbutt are just a few of the amazing chefs I’ve been privileged to cook alongside, but my affair with the kitchen stove will always be my first love.
As the culinary and hospitality scene moves on and is ever changing, gastro pub chains come and go I am very happy to be involved in a variety of exciting new projects, offering my (coughs) XX years of experience as a consultant and enjoying demonstrating at some of the best food festivals in the country.