Jobs and chefs come and go, and I went travelling, chasing the dream of the perfect wave. I found myself on the frost-bitten earth of old Blighty in the middle of May 1996 on my twenty sixth birthday. I promptly bought a food guide, looked up the best restaurants in town and started looking for work. I didn’t have to look long – the second place I went to was The River Café where I somehow managed to secure a job. The River Café was the most inspirational place I’ve ever has the pleasure to work. The quality of chefs and the inspirational genius of Rose Gray and Ruthie Rodgers provided a highly motivated environment in which to work. Their ideas, philosophy and approach to Italian food provided the backbone of my own style of cooking.
At this time I met Jamie Oliver (yes, The Naked Chef, he of Jamie’s School Dinners fame) who had started just a few days earlier. Who was to know that Jamie’s life would change so dramatically and that mine would run a similar course? During the whole Naked Chef thing, Jamie turned to his friends; to appear on The naked Chef (I was on the show three times and had one episode dedicated to my birthday) and to help out with the food styling for his first and second cookbooks as well as publicity tour to Australia and New Zealand (on this tour I met my wife and mother to our beautiful children Ruby and Herb. Thanks mate!).
After all this I made a few connections of my own, and scored an agent – thinking that a little bit of extra work and pocket money would be great from doing demos and small-bit TV appearances. The next thing, Martine, my agent is saying “Do you want to present a show in Morocco for American TV?” I’m like, yeah, love to!
One thing led to another and I got a call to do a screen test for a new show on the BBC, I didn’t think I’d get the job, especially after saying that my favourite food to cook was “hash cookies”, but they liked my style and my food and the rest is history. The Best came along with an accompanying book for the series in Aril 2002 on BBC2.
To think that I was doing nothing but TV work at the time would be far from reality. I had been approached by the management of the Hyatt Carlton Tower hotel in London to be Head Chef of Monte’s, a restaurant, bar and night club in the fashionable shopping area of Knightsbridge. This was a fantastic opportunity to define and refine my style and philosophy on food: approachable, relaxed, and hardworking with a good sense of humour and time for play!