A sample of the food I have created and cooked for clients!
When I completed a diploma in catering, I could not predict the opportunities that it would open for me.
I started my catering business in 2009, having invested in creating a professional kitchen within a double garage. This took about eight weeks to do with all that was involved in creating a new kitchen that would enable me to cook for 300 people. I needed to promote the business, so I wrote and sent out a press release which was picked up by the local newspapers. This was great coverage, and, to my surprise, the BBC local radio station in Oxford contacted e for an interview. The interview was for an hour, and it went quickly!
I initially promoted my food at local food markets in Wallingford and Oxford. These were fun to do but a huge amount of work, the week cooking and then loading and unloading the car on Saturday and Sunday to sell the range of soups, meals, tarts, and other recipes I had cooked. I made it my goal to do original food, recipes that you would not see on a food stall.
I tried so many things and a good number were popular. Chicken Gallatine, Game terrine, individual pork pies, and with alternative fillings such as lamb and white pudding, or venison with black pudding. For the sweet toothed I cooked a range of Normandy Apple Tarts, from canape size to a large flan size. These were different and sold quickly.
I was asked if I could cater for Christmas, dinner parties and so on. The requests happened on a weekly basis, so I changed my focus into catering. This meant becoming more creative in thinking about menus and that I enjoyed the challenge. Alongside this, I also came up with the idea of a local food festival to support the local food producers. This project took on a life of its own for five years with great reviews and three awards for tourism!
During this process of change, the BBC asked if I would like to do a regular food spot on the Afternoon Program, which I was surprised and excited about. It started with me on the phone from Normandy, talking about local food producers in and around Oxfordshire. I was involved with the BBC for over three years, and they were supportive of the food festival by having broadcasts from the festival for four years!
The festival opened another opportunity which was cookery courses. I was invited to run some courses at the WI Cookery School in Marcham, near Abingdon. This led to a six year association with the WI. I even ran the cookery school for six months! I enjoyed the challenge!
For the many private and corporate clients, I had to develop menus that were exciting, different, and attractive. Working with clients to develop their own menu, I think is a wonderful way to get a unique experience for an event that is important to the client, a wedding, celebration and so on.
Several chefs have influenced my menu choices, from Yotam Ottolenghi, Franck Pontais, Michel Roux, Mark Hix, Thomas Keller and, of course, the team at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Raymond Blanc and Gary Jones. The food, recipes, and passion for what they do still inspire me to find new recipes to offer to my clients.
These pictures represent the many elements of the last twelve years of my cooking for my clients. Developing the Isle of Wight Cookery School opens another door to new challenges and opportunities in the world of food!