Growing up in a typical working-class family in the North of England circa 1970’s. (think Billy Elliot with-out the music and dancing) it was a given to expect very plain, bland and over cooked food. As you can probably imagine, culinary innovation wasn’t at the top of the list. We Northerner’s are naturally suspicious of anything too fancy, foreign or different. For instance, if you had asked us back then “what are Macadamias”, we would probably have guessed they were a small group of Islands off the coast in the Mediterranean.
My Grandma Nellie and Grandad Jimmy Hollywood
(real name), with my cousins 1974 with the obligatory
cup of tea, and coal shed in the background.
Ironically, it was my dad, the typical ‘man's man, salt of the earth northerner’ that always had a bit of a hankering for something other than the typical British faire of pie and chips or stew. He would dabble with curries, always served over chips (French fries) and never with rice, that would be pushing it and verging on the fancy side. He was making Spaghetti Bolognese, (or ‘Spag-Bol’ as it’s commonly now known in the UK,) years before it was trendy. And he even served it with Parmesan cheese, never fresh only the dried processed kind that smells like a cross between sweaty gym socks and cat pee and had a shelf life of at least a100 years.
Not to leave my Mam out, she also had her hysterical culinary moments, how could we ever forget the occasion when she couldn’t cook the spaghetti because unfortunately, we didn’t have a pot that was tall enough. Or her famous mile high Shepherd’s pie. (See my previous blog to learn more about this culinary treat.
Photo credit www.johnbulmer.co.uk
So, how did I end up as a chef? heralding from that not so glamorous background? Well, to be honest I really don’t know. I do know that it’s a calling, like a brain surgeon, only without the expensive medical school training, the blood and gory body parts and the prestige. Fine! Ok, it’s totally nothing like being a brain surgeon. But I knew, without a shred of doubt that from an early age I was destined to become a chef.
Over the past three decades, I’ve honed my passion for all things culinary, including the art of cooking, food styling, food photography and eating. The last one being my favorite of course. This career has taken me to places that as a working-class kid from the North of England I couldn’t even begin to imagine. From working at a prestigious Catering Company in London, cooking at St. James Palace to Chicago working as an Executive Pastry Chef at ‘The Pump Room’ to Northern California opening up my own restaurant. Of-course there have been many places in between with lots of side splitting hysterical, sad and perhaps inspiring stories to come.