My father and grandfather were greengrocers by trade, so I suppose I couldn’t help but follow in their footsteps, it’s in my blood. They would go to the Old Covent Garden on horse and cart, my grandfather would give my dad the buying list written on nothing more than a brown paper bag, then Grandad would head off to the pub.
I was born in St Bart’s Hospital in Clerkenwell and lived in a top floor room in Exmouth Market with my parents. My first ever job in the food industry was pulling out the fruit and veg barrows before going to school, then packing them away after school.
When I left school, I was then employed by Covent Garden Market and given the option of choosing the job I would most like to do, the choices included, a Flower Porter, Banana Cutter, or an Empty’s Boy. The choice was simple for me, I wanted to be a Banana Cutter; I have always loved the smell of ripe fruit in the summer and this was the only job where you were allowed to work in the fruit market.
Keen to get more involved, at the age of 18 I got my full porters badge. Back in those days, you could only acquire a porters badge if you had family working in the market, this was also before the time of forklifts so everything was moved by barrow, pulling a tonne at a time!
Whilst still a porter, I found an empty building near the Barbican Centre. I fitted it out as a restaurant and called it Café Rouge, the first in England. My wife and I worked in it morning, noon and night and managed to get a very good chef to come and work with us. We scored 13/20 in the good food guide, the highest score in the City and Islington. (The Chef was Bryan Webb, who now has his own Michelin Star).
Around this time I met with a Chef called Paul Gayler for some advice, he came down to the Café Rouge and saw we had redcurrants in the kitchen. He said that his fruit and vegetable supply company could not supply them as they could not find them on the market. He asked if we could buy him some the next day and drop them to his restaurant (Indigo Jones). My last business, Chef’s Connection, was born.
I have been privileged to supply many great Chef’s in my career including; Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsey, Marcus Wareing, Gary Rhodes, Georgia Locatelli, Angella Hartnett and my very good friend Pierre Koffman.
In 2014, I set up YesChef with my son as we wanted to go back to a more personal bespoke service. It’s great to be able to pass your passion on to your family. We have a great team working with us and we are big enough to cope but small enough to care.
Discipline, dedication and direction are the key ingredients for Yes Chef.