The decision to become a professional chef was easily made, and my first job was at Hardy’s, a small French bistro in West London. Here I learned a lot, getting to grips with the finer details of the French classics. I moved on to the Oxo Tower Brasserie, and here I had the opportunity to work with a diverse stable of international chefs, with whom I shared many exciting, inspiring, and stressful moments.
When the time came for me to take on the responsibility of my own kitchen, I was appointed as Head Chef at The Honor Oak, a gastro pub in South East London. My Steak Night and Sunday Lunch quickly became a hit with locals. I was involved in a wide range of community events, including crèche mornings, weddings, funerals and everything you would expect from a diverse South East London borough.
After three years of success at the Honor Oak, I felt the need to get back into a central London kitchen, and I now run the Seven Dials Club kitchen in the heart of London. Mainly catering for the local community, whether it’s birthdays, weddings or other family functions, I love these large events, with lots of people and honest, well-made vibrant food. Over the last year, I have started running food-related classes with children from local schools; an incredibly rewarding aspect of my job. Having earned the respect of the community leaders, I am now actively pitching other proposals for food projects in the Covent Garden area.
As I have grown as a chef, I have realized that my Romani roots are reflected in my cooking style. I like nothing more than moving from place to place and sampling and mastering the local dishes. Soups and stews have become an increasingly significant part of my repertoire, and the act of preserving has become more commonplace in my armoury. My cooking style often reflects the humble beginnings of my forefathers. Some would call it peasant food, but I wouldn’t want to give it such a lowly name. Frugal cooking doesn’t have to be unadventurous.
I have recently been appointed Trustee and Fund-raising Secretary of The Gypsy Council, something I am very proud of. The Gypsy Council is an organisation charged with helping the travelling community with the social, welfare and civil rights issues that arise from time to time. We also work with a wide range of groups in order to build a better future for the Roma of Europe.
I am about to begin my own great adventure. I am currently working on a cookbook and TV program that will tell the story of my Romani Heritage through food and take me on a journey of rediscovery.
It will, I hope, inspire others to seek out their own culinary heritage wherever they are from. I am excited at the prospect of bringing the disappearing art of Gypsy food to a wider audience, and to doing something to address the problems of negative attitudes toward the Romani community in British society. Fingers crossed you will like what you read and watch.