All the above seemed interlinked one way or another – who was it that said “if music be the food of love, play on” Oscar …? well, you get given one of these (of sorts) in each of these careers if you’re really, really good.
In my life these 3 things have all played a huge part in what I guess I’m avidly passionate about. Something for the senses, something for the eyes and something for the soul. Each of these careers; food, music and film, is like a love affair between the creator and their audience. One I like to think created by somebody in each of these genres who puts an enormous part of themselves out in the open for us all to either taste, hear or watch. Wearing their heart on their sleeve they provide us an opportunity to witness what they have created, to share what they believe in and to immerse ourselves into this delicious oblivion.
Everything I do has to be delicious, none of this “that will do” or “that’s fine” and for Christ’s sake please refrain from ever, ever saying “nice”! Nothing is ever nice. It is in my humble opinion the most utterly lame word to describe anything and if it’s the best word you can think of, why bother? Of everything you could choose to say when you think of the plethora of gorgeous words we have in our arsenal the best you can come up with is “Mmm, that’s nice dear”??! The way I look at it is if your beautiful other half came downstairs in something new and fabulous (probably eyewateringly expensive underwear) looking like a million dollars I really don’t think “you look nice” is somehow going to cut it. Okay, I’ll make one exception, but just the one where it is acceptable to say “nice”. It is in relation to the automobile but obviously not all of them, only when one particular model drives by or pulls up (to the bumper baby) stops you dead in your tracks, grabs your complete and utter attention for a brief moment whilst your better half is nudging you saying “stop staring, it’s rude”. In that moment you only have eyes for what lies before you. Then and only then can you be forgiven for saying “nice”. A wry smile isn’t usually far behind …
I find food’s like that and as we need to eat to survive, nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if they had not been made a pleasure as well as a necessity, plus it gives it creator one of life’s greatest self expressions. If you can cook the world offers you a cornucopia of ingredients with which to play.
I studied the theory of Catering at Lancaster & Morecambe College while cooking in and around the Lake District. In London, I held senior positions at The Ivy (that old chestnut) and the highly acclaimed Sugar Club and while heading up the kitchen at The Gate in West London we picked up the TimeOut award for ‘Best Vegetarian Food’ which really set the ‘pulse’ racing!
I left the restaurant world toward the end of the nineties and joined a “small” family owned business called Sainsbury’s (they were actually the 2nd largest retailer in the UK at the time) with a remit to inspire and innovate the trading division. They in turn flew me around the world and I added these cultural whirlwinds and foodie explorations to my repertoire. I worked closely with marketeers who taught me the way of the consumer, alongside the NPD specialists who fed them my ideas and together we created, developed and launched various internal brands such as Fresh Creations (Oooh er), Blue Parrot Café (you can name things like that when you’re a Supermarket) and “Pay” sorry “Taste the Difference”. Along the way we were presented with numerous industry awards for outstanding innovation and product development. Then a chap called Jamie Oliver showed up and we really started doing some cooking!
Sainsbury’s and I went our separate ways in 2002 and I set up the kitchenofsecrets ltd, which is exactly that – about 25 years worth of insights and a whole host of secrets and experiences. It offers a knowledge portal, if you like, with a window into the world of NPD at the front line. My core skills interconnect across numerous commercial competencies, together with restaurant start ups and menu development. From the likes of M&S, Dishoom, Subway, Thai Union, KalimeraLondon, IPC, Greencore and Nando’s, I have helped create, innovate, develop, challenge and launch all sorts of amazing concepts and products … which at some point, as a customer, you may well have tasted or even purchased?
Over the years I have established a broad network of contacts who all embrace and pioneer high quality food standards, not to mention the many fabulous cooks, incredible chefs, food writers, diligent technologists and product developers who have inspired me and kept this particular dish simmering away. Whisk all of that together with a detailed understanding of the retail sector, our consumer buying and spending habits and my belief that a smiling face is half the meal.