I turned 35 this year and realized that I have been cooking for 20 years. It was 14 years ago when I sat my parents down and told them that their only child was about to move across the Atlantic Ocean to pursue his career in Canada. I never really got to experience any of the great restaurants or witness the iconic chefs cooking in England, as I spent most of my time as a commis in the kitchen working hard, building a foundation and eventually moving up through the ranks.
After five great years in Canada I moved to Fearrington where I became the “number two” for three years at The Fearrington House. In December of 2008 the owner and management put all of their faith in me and I was placed at the helm — this was my first Executive Chef role. I quickly realized that if I was going to make a difference here I would need help — this job was too big for one person. The goal was to build a team that that could handle the pressure and work as a unit to maintain the standards and bridge the gap between the front and back of The Fearrington House – it was necessary for both sides of the coin to understand the other’s role. Trying to disregard personal emotion and remember the common goal (an exceptional experience for each guest) has had a massive impact on how we function as a team at the restaurant.
I remember having a conversation with my mum telling her that we were applying to be considered for The Grand Chef distinction — during my weekly conversations with my parents, they would ask if we had been secret shopped or heard anything, my response was always “I don’t know, not sure and no!” So the day we got the news that we had gotten the award (the day this picture was taken) was an emotional one to say the least. I called my parents to tell them that we had received the award and that was all I could really muster at that point. I heard my mum say to my dad “I think Colin is sick,” and he quickly took the phone with a stern voice to get to the bottom of the reason for my call. Once I told him the news and he told my mum, she wanted details — she started with “That is great news! We are so proud of you…what is it (Grand Chef)?” I started to tell them and gave her the benchmark, I told her that Raymond Blanc had the same award and the phone went silent.
This has been a massive achievement and now I have the opportunity to go home to London and cook for the first time in 14 years. I am very honored to go back and cook with all these great chefs, but very humbled too. This is going to be a fantastic experience. You can follow me on my trip on Twitter and Instagram at @chefbedford!