As fellow chefs will testify, one of the biggest challenges in our profession is staying motivated and on top of your game when spending day after day working unsocial hours in a sweltering kitchen.
It’s certainly not a profession for the faint hearted, but there are ways to make it easier and for me, one of the greatest pleasures is being able to use my skills in a variety of different places.
The fact is, behind every good knees-up is good food. And while I enjoy being a publican and head chef, there is a large part of me that has always loved putting on external events as they bring new challenges, new people to work with and, of course, new places to work in.
Following this passion, in partnership with my sister, Holly, over the past five years we have built up an event catering company called Food for Thought that we run from the pub.
So while we’ve been doing well in the pub we’ve also been growing our reputation for catering for weddings, corporate days and other one-off events. The variety keeps things interesting and no two weeks are the same.
Most recently, as some of you may have seen featured in the Publican’s Morning Advertiser, in late April I co-commissioned a two-week-long pop-up restaurant project in the centre of Bristol called Eat Drink Bristol Fashion (www.eatdrinkbristolfashion.co.uk ).
Involving 12 independent restaurants and pulling in over 10,000 customers, it was undoubtedly the most ambitious project I have ever undertaken and tested us to the limit.
As a committed festival goer, I had always toyed with putting on my own food-themed mini fest one day, but it wasn’t until I teamed up with Luke Hasell, a local farmer and entrepreneur, that we realised that dream could become a reality.
With our combined expertise and experience we had most bases covered and were able to put on what was the first co-operative, large-scale pop-up restaurant of its kind.
The unique aspect of this event was that it was restaurant-led. We aimed to celebrate some of Bristol’s best independent restaurants and suppliers by bringing them together.
We celebrated the diversity of Bristol’s thriving food scene and throughout the duration you could have anything from a six-course tasting menu or a Sunday roast, to a simple snack in our modern British tapas bar.
In these difficult economic times, we felt that we would be stronger working together as a communal network. I’m proud to say that the event was a success and that the people of Bristol came out in force to support us. It was a huge challenge — perhaps the biggest of my career — but it was extremely rewarding and served to highlight just how exciting putting on special events can be.
So if you feel like you need a new challenge in this industry, why not put something on yourself, or perhaps pool resources with a neighbouring business? It can certainly boost the profile of your own work and who knows, you may just like it!