Living the dream
I have three memories embedded in my mind for all eternity regarding food during my younger years.
Dreamy summer days, piercing blue skies, hours spent on Polzeath beach creating architecturally impossible castles complete with water filled dams and little paper Union Jack flags, running carelessly in and out of a patchwork of rainbow coloured flapping nylon windbreaks. Freshly dug Cornish new potatoes, homemade butter melting atop, smothered in wonderful Heinz salad cream.
My wonderful Great Grandmother, Mrs Emily Lander bundling me into her powder blue Morris Minor, driving less than a quarter of a mile to the sandy floored Galleon Café on Polzeath beach. We always had the same. Plump plaice fillets, deep fried with big fat chips and tartar sauce….I can almost taste it now…
The shop assistants face, splattered with potato and swede chunks after my mother had thrown a pasty at her.
I have always lived in North Cornwall.
Rock until I was 13, then Polzeath….
I have absolutely no idea where my passion to cook has come from, although my mother, Unice is a great cook, so possibly there?
Mr David and Mrs Marie (Maude-sorry) Gray, formerly of the Maltsters Arms public house in Chapel Amble gave me my first real insight into a professional kitchen. An extremely popular and busy, 150 plus cover ‘Gastro pub’ (a very new term for that style of pub twenty years ago)
I knew within two weeks of starting work at the Maltsters Arms I had stumbled upon something I had never really considered before…cooking. (I had originally applied for a table waiting job to fill in the long winter ahead, but, of course Maude knew better and put me in the kitchen)
I wasn’t particularly interested in the academic side of learning, but this cooking lark seemed not only easy, but thoroughly enjoyable. My dear friend and Head Chef Libbe (an old school pal and daughter of Dave and Maude) truly had her work cut out trying to teach me the basic’s….damn that first cheese sauce from splitting!
Before I knew it, I was working at the Atlantic House Hotel in New Polzeath, for the wonderful Mr Grahame and Mrs Jane Lewis.
Although this was mainly a carvery style operation, Jane allowed me the freedom to experiment with new foods and of course supplied me with a captive audience of hungry hotel guests to cook for.
With no budget or restraints, I had complete free reign and was truly able to stretch my imagination with regard to the food I produced. I had had no formal training as such, so I buried my head in the latest cooking magazines, adopted the latest fads and picked up tips as I went along. If I read something which interested me, I made it for the hotel guests the next day. I made mistakes clearly, but usually the mistakes came good and surprisingly I seemed to have a knack for it.
I worked at the hotel for 7 years. I had been given the amazing opportunity to grow and express myself there and one thing which really stands out from that time is that the little things really do make a difference.
There were several guests with allergies. Gorgeous Dottie with her dairy allergy, Mrs Mewett with her aversion to literally anything in the onion family. I always went out of my way to accommodate those preferences, ultimately it showed I cared, to be bothered to create specific dishes for different people, the guests were always so lovely and after all it was my job, to proudly create dishes for everyone to enjoy….
Looking back at this time, I now realise that without David and Maude’s guidance, faith and patience and Grahame and Jane’s confidence in my fast growing passion for cooking, I would not be where I am today. From the bottom of my heart I thank you all for that.
Late 2001 I heard on the local grapevine a little café in Rock might be coming available.
I was ready to take on a place of my own and I had to make this mine.
There were several other parties bidding for the café but again, I was given the chance (this time by the late Mr John Tucker, who had such an impact on my life, it makes me thankful to have known him and he will always hold a special place in my heart)
I had been successful in securing the property. The chance was here to fulfil my dream of having my own place.
I was 24, and living my dream.
The Bluetomato opened in Rock on March 12 2002.
until next time……….