Where I'm At

The Vincent Rooms Brasserie at Westminster Kingsway CollegeIn July 2007, I graduated from Westminster Kingsway College after completing the final year of a three-year NVQ course and being awarded a Professional Chef Diploma with Merit. I chose WestKing because of its reputation as the best catering college in Britain and I was not disappointed, although it was a very demanding course. After graduation I spent the summer deciding where to start my professional career.

Comerç 24 in BarcelonaMany of my fellow students elected to follow a traditional path and select a Michelin-starred restaurant, cooking Modern European cuisine. But I'd always been more interested in more innovative fusion cooking, drawing on processes and ingredients from across the globe to create a style of food that transcends regional cuisine.

It seemed to me that the most adventurous and exciting food of my generation was - unlike the food of the previous generation - to be found not in France but in Spain. Leading that revolution were the Nuevos Cocineros de Barcelona - a group of creative chefs most of whom learnt their trade with Ferran Adrià at the world's #1 rated restaurant, El Bulli. And of all those chefs, the one whose menu impressed me most was Carles Abellan of Comerç 24. When offered a 3-month training stage, I had no hesitation in accepting. From October 2007 to November 2008 I was in a small, open kitchen as a small part of the amazing team at one of Europe's most adventurous restaurants. The irony was that, just seven weeks after I started at C24, it was awarded its first Michelin star!

At the end of my three-month stage, I was fortunate enough to be offered a one-year contract to remain at Comerç 24 and I accepted without hesitation. I could probably have earnt more working at Dunkin' Donuts, but that was hardly the point. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity to learn in this environment, amongst great chefs and serious foodies, working at the edge of creativity with modern food. How many people can honestly say that they are doing exactly what they've always wanted to do... and getting paid for it? Then in late May, after five months on professional contract, I was promoted to chef de partie - responsible for running the cuarto frio (cold larder) section of the restaurant. It was an honour completely beyond any expectations I had when I set out on my Catalan adventure just eight months earlier and one I have worked hard at to justify the decision to trust me with such a level of responsibility.

Hotel Ferrero in Bocairent, ValènciaI completed my contract at Comerç 24 before Christmas and took a well-deserved rest break during which I sampled several restaurants as a customer - including the wonderful El Celler de Can Roca. In January 2009 I started the next leg of my journey, taking on a paid stage at the Michelin-starred Lasarte in the Hotel Condes de Barcelona. That stage was extended for a second month and I was told that were it not for the current financial situation I would have been retained on contract (later in the year I was thrilled to hear that Antonio Sáez and the team had won their second Michelin star). I was also delighted to be offered a new contract at Comerç 24. But I needed to develop my career in new directions and in April 2009 I successfully trialled for a three-month stage with Spain's most exciting young restaurant team - Paco Morales and Rut Cotroneo at Hotel Ferrero in the mountains of València. Ten weeks later I was offered a contract as Pastry Chef, which in a Spanish kitchen means chef de partie of the postres (desserts) section. From May to late November I enjoyed working hard as part of a great kitchen team, before deciding it was time to move on and widen my experience elsewhere.

With the recession hitting the Spanish hospitality industry particularly hard, it wasn't easy to find a suitable opening, although eventually I was invited to trial at an exciting new restaurant in one of the most glamorous locations in Barcelona. But by then I'd already made a commitment to return to London and surprise my friends and family by taking up a job in the East End, where I was born. Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes had been making a reputation for himself in the East End for years, first with his "fine dining in trainers" restaurant Bacchus in Hoxton and more recently with his private dining club, The Loft, in Hackney. I'd known for some time that he was planning a new restaurant in Bethnal Green, but when I saw for myself what was about to be launched, tested the dishes and met the kitchen team, I knew this was where I wanted to be. So I became part of the startup team at Viajante in Bethnal Green as the chef de partie for the cold section, helping to get the place up and running and to take it through soft openings. It was a thrill to cook for some of Britain's top chefs while I was there, most recently Claude Bosi of Hibiscus.

Ironically, although I originally moved to Barcelona in order to develop my passion for fusion cuisine, while I was there I actually developed in the opposite direction. As former seafarers and conquerors of much of the Mediterranean, Catalans are not afraid of new ingredients and techniques and their cuisine is certainly open and eclectic. But Catalan gastronomy - even the most innovative and radical - is firmly rooted in local culture and tradition. Working with Catalans and Valèncians has taught me the importance of drawing on the local culinary culture and sourcing the very best seasonal produce as locally as possible - while maintaining a global perspective and not becoming an obsessive locavore. And, as I've eaten in more and more Michelin-starred restaurants, I've come to realise that they are not all boring and conventional establishments. The best of the places I've eaten - El Celler de Can Roca, Lasarte, Cinc Sentits, Quique Dacosta... are all Michelin-starred.

Right now I've decided to take a short break from fine dining and from blogging. But I'll be back!

Coach Carl Dixon and our winning team Apex Arvensdale FCClick here to see my photo diary of one day in my life as a third-year student at Westminster Kingsway. It will give you an idea of just how long my working day was and all of the activities that I packed into that long day. Hospitality is a tough career choice - my current job involves two shifts (with a siesta in-between) totalling over ten hours of work per day.

I was lucky to experience quite a lot in the formative years of my life, because my parents worked hard to give my brother and myself plenty of opportunities to try things out. We both did a lot of sport when we were young and that taught me the importance of always turning up on time and trying hard even when things aren't going well. I never quite reached the football standard of brother Joel, who trialled at Under-16 for England, but I was goalkeeper for one of the most successful ever teams in the Waltham Forest league in East London. Click for information about my youth football team Apex Arvendale FC.

Me and my family at Midsummer House, CambridgeBoth mum and dad were brought up in relatively poor families and missed out on many things that they were later able to give their own children. But they always understood the difference between the price of things and the value of things, so they never held back when it came to making sure we had valuable experiences. Now they are more comfortable financially, I don't feel guilty suggesting visits to top restaurants as presents and we've enjoyed a few such family outings, including to Midsummer House (right). They promised me a table at El Bulli to celebrate graduation, but for one reason or another it didn't happen. Now that I've worked for Ferran Adrià's former sous chef and made quite a few contacts in Catalan fine dining, it's more likely that I'll be taking them to El Bulli.

It's a small planetMy early travels around the world taught me that the planet is a very small place where we don't all have to be the same, but if we don't all get on with eachother we all sink together. I want to reflect this in my cooking.

I have enormous respect for national and regional cuisines and for classical cooking that has proved itself over the years. Food is an integral part of national and regional cultures and should be protected and developed in the same way that art, music and language should be. But as planet Earth becomes smaller and more closely integrated by the day, I want to help everyone to experience the very best of the planet's culinary offerings. In that sense, global cooking continues to turn me on. Kiwi chef Peter Gordon summed it up when he wrote in A World In My Kitchen: "There are many chefs cooking beautiful, authentic regional food... I love to eat it but I don't want to cook it... The world as a whole excites me more than a region defined by political boundaries."

Here is my CV as a .pdf file and you can look up my references for any further enquiries. Trig.