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Chef’s First Secret…

Originally from Kampala the capital and biggest city in Uganda, but raised in London, My first memory of food stems back to when I was 13 years old.

I was at home one day when Ansley Harriet’s Ready Steady Cook TV Show appeared on the TV. I was drawn in, it was the children’s show as well which made it even more engaging, I could relate. I watched that hour intensely, thoughts running all through my head of what I would have done differently to those other kids on the TV who were slicing and dicing all kind of ingredients. That for me was the first recipe that stuck in my head, the dish, which was prepared before me on TV. I can’t remember if it was the green pepper or red tomatoes who won that day but I do know that chicken dish was one which shaped the rest of my life.

Later that day I went and did the food shopping with mum, inspired by what I had seen on TV I asked her if we could have a roast dinner that evening. I was delighted when I watched her bit by bit put all the ingredients in the basket I needed to re create that chicken dish from TV. When we returned home mum had to go to work, I couldn’t resist but ripped open the shopping bag, picked up a knife and started to section the chicken exactly how I had seen on TV. I went through a mix of emotions, it was my first time holding a knife, I was scared, I was excited but most memorably it just felt so natural. When mum returned from work she was shocked at what I had done to the chicken, I couldn’t work out how she was feeling, and to this day I still wonder. Was she mad? Was she proud? My plans for that dish took a turn, I had dreamt of lemon and thyme and serving it with lyonnaise potatoes, however my mum had different ideas and we ended up making a chicken stew. At the time I remember thinking she had destroyed my dish, but looking back it was such a fantastic collaboration of flavours she had created and it always seeks to amaze me how different cultures see food.

My knowledge of food at this time was limited, with a mother from Uganda, African/ Indian cuisine was predominantly on our dinner table. Having an East African upbringing, the thought of telling my mum I wanted a career in food, petrified me. African parents prefer more traditional career paths mainly Doctors, Lawyers etc. Reaching 13 I needed to decide what my GCSE’s would be, the fear of disappointing my family overwhelmed me and I ended up choosing Music, Drama and IT. I attended Forest gate community school and completed my GCSE’s in my chosen subjects, meanwhile, food stayed always in the back of my mind. One teacher who made an impression during my time at school was Mrs. Robinson; she was kind and always listened, I knew she had all of our best interests at heart. I often talked to her about my chef dreams and it was her who encouraged me to look for a something in catering for the next step in my studies. At the time Westminster was the best college for catering, I couldn’t wait to apply, I also applied for an apprenticeship, which was being offered by Jamie Oliver. The anticipation waiting to see if both applications had been successful was tense, and I was gutted when both were unsuccessful. However this didn’t hold me back with Ready, Steady, Cook, my mums chicken stew and Mrs Robinson in the back of my mind I was offered a place at Barking college and went on to complete 2 years of Catering school. During this time I learnt the art of the kitchen, competed in competitions and most importantly spent my days learning about and practicing something I loved.

On completion of college I started my first job working as a commi chef in Sheraton Park Lane. At the age of 18 I was eager to create something to call my own, something I could channel my passion for food in to and most importantly something I could invest in to look after my mum. My idea originated from a sense of community, I wanted to create this for chefs, somewhere where chef’s who were starting out and not as skilled yet could go and get advice to help them progress in their careers.

It’s from these long days spent training in the kitchen, the words of advice to never give up and constant reminder to live your life doing what you love, that Chefsecrets was born…

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