So, having always had an attraction to the grill, I decided to take a leap of faith at the end of 2014 to pursue this as a professional endeavour. As much as I've been enthused and inspired working in sustainability, my passion for food has always been there, and over the space of a few months in 2013-14 I realised it was pretty much what I end up talking about, thinking about and...doing (whether cooking or eating) most of the time. Rather than squeeze these things in outside of work, I thought it best to make them a central part of it.
So, thanks to a flexible boss and employer, I've been exploring the BBQ dream more deeply since Christmas 2014 putting ideas into writing, meeting people in industry and gaining some valuable work experience. The responses I have received from people when I tell them my plan have been pretty varied ("are you f***ing mad?", "don't f***ing do it") but the advice has always been useful, and gratefully recieved. No, honestly, thanks for the encouragement guys....
Despite the fact that food has been a favorite pastime of mine for a while now, my last professional experience dates back to my days as a chalet cook, during a ski season in 2004/5. To get some much-needed experience and to make sure this was an industry I actually wanted to spend my working life in from now on, I thought it was probably a good idea to have a bit of a refresh. So I contacted possibly the finest purveyor of BBQ food in the UK (Neil Rankin, of Pitt Cue, Barbecoa and Islington/Chiswick Smokehouse fame) to see if I could spend some time learning and experiencing life in a pro-BBQ kitchen.
The part-time tenure I spent at the Islington Smokehouse over April and May was a hugely rich learning experience and a massive inspiration to me pursuing the BBQ dream further. It was also a lot of fun. This was due to a combination of willing Head Chefs (Liz and George), generous with their time and knowledge, and a unique cooking ethos that embraced in-house butchery, and 'proper' smoking over charcoal and wood. So with a few new skills and a few less nerve endings in my fingers (note to self - there are many hot things in a kitchen), I left the Smokehouse ready for the next step. Goodbye Microsoft Excel gridlines, Hello BBQ char-grill marks.