Lifestyle – High-flying chef Jamie Peaker has made Galway his home and turned his passion for sauces into a thriving new business. Dearbhla Geraghty hears his story.
From a high-flying lifestyle in London, where cooking for the who’s who of world affairs was a daily occurrence, to operating his own café in Spiddal, Jamie Peaker is stepping back from the rat-race and opting for a quieter life as ‘the Sauce Guy’.
In fact, the latest venture for the Kiwi chef is not very far removed from his days working in London’s exclusive celebrity hangout, The Ivy Restaurant, where he was the head sauce chef.
“At the time, they had an eight-month waiting list,” he recalls.
“We were full 364 days of the year, we did 150 covers for lunch, and 320 for dinner. We fed the stars – every day was an Elton John or Beckham or Pele, Bill Clinton could be in, it became very common practice to be feeding high-end and known celebrities.”
He never actually met the celebrities themselves, as he was working three storeys underground, but each order carried the celeb’s name, as they often requested particular variations of the regular menu.
He vividly remembers when Stephen Hawking ordered a filet mignon. The dish was presented to him for inspection, and once he was happy with it, it would be sent back to the kitchen to be diced up very small for him to eat.
How a 21-year old with long dreadlocks, from a small town in New Zealand, came to work in such an exclusive restaurant is typical of Jamie’s easy going attitude to life.
“I enjoyed travelling as a kid, and was washing dishes in a restaurant when a chef said to me: ‘If you like travelling, becoming a chef is a great idea because you can cook around the world. There’s an apprenticeship going in a really good restaurant down the road . . .’ So, I went and applied, and they put me through college.”
The conference centre where he worked had its own herb and vegetable garden, and much of the produce was sourced onsite, which he said was a great experience for a young chef.
However, he got itchy feet when he was 21, and booked a one-way ticket to London, without any job to go to, or place to stay.
“It was a very Kiwi thing to do, we are very far away from the rest of the world, and your teachers and parents tell you to go and see the world, so we gravitate quite easily towards England.
“I naively booked into a back packers (hostel) for two nights. One night I was going to go out and have fun, and the next day get a job and a house, but I was still there three months later,”
He was enjoying the freedom of being away from home to such an extent, that getting a job was far from his thoughts – until his savings ran out, and an “absolutely random” job at the exclusive Ivy Restaurant landed in his lap.
“I needed a job this one particular day, I went around to all the big fancy restaurants and hotels – Dorchester and Ritz – but they all had HR departments, so it would take weeks or months for them to get back to me, but I needed a job.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.