Tell us a bit about yourself
I’m a born and bred Bristolian, and a chef who enjoys music.
I love food! From a young age I enjoyed food, and I believe that each meal should be a great experience when you use fresh ingredients.
I’m passionate about the sustainability of foods and work with FareShare, who are fighting hunger and tackling food waste.
Why and how did you get into the catering industry?
Because of my love for food.
I did a City and Guilds course back in the day, but learnt to cook on the job!
Where have you worked and what work experience did you do?
I’ve had an amazing career, from cooking over campfires to working with some of the country’s culinary greats.
I started as Head Chef at Billesley Manor, Stratford, and was RWE Curriculum Manager at City of Bristol College, where I helped to train many of Bristol’s top chefs.
More recently I co-founded The School of Food. I’m also Food Development Manager at the St Monica Trust, and director for 91 Ways and The Matthew Tree Project.
We develop recipes and offer cooking lessons using waste food for the Matthew Tree Project.
The St Monica Trust also support the Bright Sparks WEX programme for young people, with Bristol Sport. This is an initiative set up with Bristol Sport Community Foundation when young people with behaviour issues come to B Block Pizzeria and learn how to make pizzas and coffee with a view to becoming a chef and joining The School of Food.
I have also been involved in charity events such as: 91 Ways, The Great Bristol Menu, Breakfast events at Bristol Fruit Market, Food and Farming Awards, Empire Fighting Chance, Bristol Drugs cookery workshops, plus the North Bristol Soup Run.
And if that’s not enough, I recently opened two restaurants at The Chocolate Quarter in Keynsham – B Block Pizzeria and Somer Dining.
As you can see, the life of a chef can be very varied.
Tell about your role at The School of Food. Why did you set it up?
It all started with a conversation between myself, Josh Eggleton (Chef Patron at the Pony & Trap), and Dave Crew, a Director at Weston College, back in 2017. I’ve known Josh for years and we’ve always wanted to set up a chef training school – something different and exciting that changes the way chefs are trained in the city, and inspires the next generation. We realised that we all had the same idea and agreed to work together to make it happen.
In my role as Food Development Manager at the St Monica Trust, I’m responsible for the Bristol-based training at The School of Food. Using my industry contacts, I secure guest trainers and work with the College to maintain quality. My aim is to get the people, who are leaders in their speciality, in to do masterclasses to inspire the chefs of the future. Unlike other courses or apprenticeships, we strike a careful balance between what needs to be taught according to the curriculum, and what needs to be taught based on the local market and latest trends in the food scene.
Do you have any fun stories or fond memories of your time at The School of Food?
It was great to see the dream turn into reality, with so many great chefs, butchers, bakers and fish mongers supporting the School of Food and giving up their time to teach our apprentices.
It was also great to have one of the Trust’s own apprentices, Chris Barry who works at The Chocolate Quarter deliver masterclasses to The Bright Sparks leaners and explains his journey with the St Monica Trust and The School of Food.
The press have identified that there is a shortage of skills in the catering and hospitality industry. Why do you think people should enter the industry?
There are lots of reasons, including:
- You get to create something new each time you cook
- The happiness you create when you cook for someone
- Your self-esteem
- It’s a billion-pound industry
- There are a huge number of jobs in Bristol
- Flexibility of hours – you can work longer but fewer days, or shorter but more days.
What does it take to become a great chef?
- Have a passion for food
- Love cooking
- Train at The School of Food
- Find a Job in ones of Bristol’s top restaurants, of which there are many
- Enjoy working hard and being able to follow instructions
- Great listening skills and always wanting to learn
- A willingness to invest time and effort in a fantastic career
- Be adaptable and change with the times.
Do you have any advice to future students?
- If you love food – join The School of Food
- If you enjoy cooking – join The School of Food.
Anything else you would like to add?
I have seen first-hand how much food has to offer.
We teach our students ‘life skills’ to build confidence and self-esteem. Being fit, healthy, positive and working as part of a team is important to the success of any business. We also focus on customer service skills, which are very important for both chefs and front of house. We also teach students about sustainability, providence and wastage. We have just installed some new ‘tech’ called Chef’s Eye, which weighs and takes pictures of food waste and highlights the areas of waste. A third of all food is wasted, which is a terrible stat. We can all do something to reduce food waste.
It can give confidence and purpose to those on the margins of society, improve wellbeing and health.
Food can bring families closer when they sit down together to eat. I want to bring some of that back and show people how simple and easy cooking is and how much happiness it can bring.
Bristol has undergone a ‘food revolution’ over the last 10 years, with the number of independent bars, cafes and restaurants opening. This is fantastic for Bristol and the local economy and has created hundreds of jobs in the hospitality sector, which we are helping to fill. That said there is still demand for more new independent eateries to open in Bristol, which means opportunities for chefs and entrepreneurs.
My favourite places in Bristol:
- Harts Bakery for breakfast
- The Pony & Trap – my favourite restaurant in Bristol
- Box-E for proper cooking at a good price
- B Block for pizza
- The Bank Tavern for Sunday Lunch
- Woodes Café on Park Street for affordable coffee
- Casamia for mind-blowing food.