As a determined food lover I have spent many years building on a varied cooking repertoire over the past 7 years. In addition to research and practical learning in my home kitchen I have had the pleasure to join a variety of local business in their quest to offer great quality food. I was also founder of Grace: Vintage Preserves in 2010 before specialising in food heritage and recipe development with The History Girls.
2010 – Gave me first experience of interactive demonstrations at the York Food and Drink Festival as Grace:Vintage Preserves led a chutney making demonstration on behalf of Abundance and Edible York. We also became involved in their impromptu apple butter demo as we made a batch of apple butter in the drum of a washing machine over a fire. The apples had all been collected from abandoned fruit trees across the city – work that Abundance continue to do.
2010 onwards – The opportunity to work with Sophie Jewett at York Cocoa House during their initial start up phase was a fantastic experience. I assisted in providing the cafe with its first chocolate based savoury menu and learnt a lot about the history of cacoa and its many uses throughout a variety of cultures. I still have the good fortune to work with Sophie on some of her 17th and 18th Century projects including the development of a 17th century gingerbread recipe for special events.
2013 – Employment with Tancred Butchers and Farm Shop enabled me to gain a deeper understanding of butchery and how to utilise cheaper, less obvious cuts of meat commonly found in historical recipes. It also gave me a behind the scenes view of commercial sausage and pie making with many of the challenges that go with it.
2014 – I was honoured to be invited to give a series of live demonstrations at York Chocolate Festival with a focus on sweet dishes from Ancient Classics to Cooking in the World Wars. Plans are afoot for further appearances and a Pop-up cafe at the festival for 2015.
2014 – Founding of The History Girls on Facebook and WordPress. Initially a joint project, it is now run by Claire Davies and focuses on food writing, recipe development and skill sharing/education through a number of small events throughout the year.
2014 onwards – I have built on the knowledge gained at Tancred Farm to assist The York Pie Company in research and recipe development for a new pie filling inspired by archaeological evidence of the Viking settlers diet in my home town of York. Keep an eye out on The History Girls Blog to follow the launch!
Despite always being a greedy guts, I wasn’t an enthusiastic cook until my early twenties. Teenage priorities, fear of failure and a pinch of laziness got in the way until, at the age of 19, I happened into employment as a dishwasher assistant at a local cafe. The chef made many of the menu items from scratch and, as I observed him season, taste and adjust I became hooked. Within three months the chef departed on a weeks holiday leaving me in the kitchen to cook on my own! Baptism of fire it may have been, but during my time in the cafe I learnt many of the basics. Soups, pies, batters and pasta dishes were now part of my repertoire and as I took my developing interest home I discovered the joy of cooking for family and friends.
In the same moment, I was struggling to cope with an ongoing heart condition and the demands of kitchen work, 6 days a week, 9 hours a day finally got the better of me. The combination of these two experiences led me to university and a BHSc in Occupational Therapy, fuelled with a desire to help others maintain their independence through purposeful activities despite illness or disability.
By 2003, at the age of 28 I was forced to admit defeat and stop working completely due to chronic heart failure. My own quest for meaning led me to food and cookery, and as the house filled with literature the cupboards also over ran with new spices, herbs and other unusual ingredients. My new obsession fascinated me and if I wasn’t in the kitchen doing, I could be found listening to, watching or reading about food. As the illness progressed and I was stripped of independent action, the last tool in my armoury was an ability to feed others. With the help of my care assistant I could prepare a cake for someone’s birthday, biscuits to tempt a passer by or even a roast to satisfy my guests. Then, after a very worrying 2 years, I received a heart transplant in 2009 and my recovery began. Finally I could throw myself into this passion for everything culinary and a carve out an edible career.