Gary, like a few celebrity chefs we know, started his culinary career at an early age, working at a local hotel after school and on his days off. At 16, he joined the Merchant Navy, where he could travel and work with cooks from all over the world and quickly rose from galley boy to cooking, mainly due to his energy, enthusiasm and culinary curiosity. The cooks became Gary’s mentors and he absorbed their passion, not only for how they cooked but also presentation; he learned everything from them.
Life was tough; long hours, little sleep and hard work. Gary soon understood why cooks are considered mad! He learned to cook for large numbers, up to a 1,000 people at a time and working with a bin next to him, time and again, cooks would tell him to throw it away and start again … but he never thought about giving up.
As he moved from ship to ship, his passion for food grew, as he met more and more international cooks and learned about dishes from their countries, including their different ways of cooking and styling.
“I learned to duck and run because at sea when it gets rough, even with storm bars on the range, pots would fly off, sometimes containing 100lbs of meat and boiling water. You just had to guess which way the oil from the fryers might leap and hopefully run in the right direction. The only thing for it was to have a beer and start again. At the same time, the waiters were trying to carry the food through to the restaurant hopefully making sure the passengers didn’t end up wearing it! And even once they got it there, they then had to try and stop it flying off the table because they didn’t want to come back to the galley and ask the mad cook to make up another dish”.
Gary rose from galley boy to assistant cook to second cook and baker and then to senior chief cook. All the way through, he never stopped learning.