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  • Neil Clifton

Cooking in a Michelin Starred Kitchen

I first got the opportunity to invest in a crowdfunding restaurant through a friend of a friend the object was for a Michelin starred chef to open a second restaurant to serve a wider range of dishes using some fantastic local ingredients.

As part of the deal, for a not particularly large amount of money I and one guest would receive cooking lessons from the chef and then lunch in the new restaurant it sounded fantastic so I booked a date several months ahead and thought nothing more about it until I received a reminder about a month beforehand. Still not decided who I was going to take on this trip I looked in the calendar and saw that the weekend was the Ryder Cup weekend. A message to my first mate at University with whom I shared a hall of residence with (and played golf with four times a week) confirmed that he was available to join me for the trip.

James Duffield (Duffers) and I had cooked together several times for our flat mates in our halls at University the most memorable of which was a Christmas lunch that we did in 1997 Duffer's and I were to cook the feast and our flat mates were to provide the entertainment:

Aries the Chinese student offered to provide music by banging a spoon against her wok,

Aaron the football enthusiast was going to keep us entertained by doing keepy uppys and Catherine The Irish student who was a couple of years older than us was going to keep us entertained with her incredible sense of humour while little Neil (little because I was fat and he was thin) was going to demonstrate his skills on Tekken 2 - several others offered no other talents apart from our French flatmate's who agreed they would drive to the Kronenbourg brewery in their jointly owned 2CV to pick up some cases of beer. We had a wonderful afternoon and evening drinking eating and enjoying each other’s company.

So bought together by sharing halls, a passion for golf and eating he was the perfect partner for this trip down to Devon.

We left Herefordshire (where he is a school teacher) around 16:00 on the Friday – our destination not Ilfracombe where Thomas Carr, our Michelin Starred Chef was going to be teaching us but Polzeath – I just had to take Duffers to Prawn On The Lawn.

We enjoyed a fabulous evening in great company before heading home via the water taxi for some sleep because we had planned to go body boarding at 06:00 the following morning.

Full refreshed we headed up to Ilfracombe and located The Restaurant. We met Thomas, who could not have been more enthusiastic to see us. Likewise, we could not wait to get going. Thomas was born in Birmingham and had learned his trade under the tutorage of Nathan Outlaw, he was head chef when Nathan’s restaurant was given its Michelin Star before moving the The Olive Room and gaining his own star, he has also appeared on Great British Menu.

We were going to prepare (and cook for ourselves) BLT – well Thomas’s take on it anyway – Brill Lettuce and Tomato.

We started by learning how to fillet the brill, create the most incredible concentrated tomato juice to add to a homemade mayonnaise – which were served with some small potato fondants.

The finished mater pieces were delightful, and if ever enthusiasm translates into recognition Thomas’ Michelin star is well deserved – he was the perfect host.

Through the course of the preparation – we realised we had prepared 16 portions of the BLT – just enough for the evening service! (Sly Thomas, used us to prep the dishes – I prefer to say I cooked Michelin starred food!)

Our day was not yet complete though – we hadn’t yet had the lunch at the new restaurant I had help crowdfund, and so, finished with Thomas we made our way to the other end of the high street for our lunch. It was quite quiet in the restaurant, and we were welcomed and shown to our seat. We were informed my “reward” for the crowd funding was any food from the menu, and also any drinks – so after a tiring morning in the kitchen a quick glass of bubbles was the perfect start, although it wasn’t a glass it was the whole bottle!

Drink flowed and superb food was served to us and we spent 3 hours recounting memories of university, the characters we had met playing golf – but the time came when neither of us could drink or eat another thing.

After a brisk walk, (next door) we found a pub that was showing the Ryder Cup, not in the main bar, or even the back bar – they were reserved for rugby and football – we were directed into a side bar, with one sofa and our own large flat screen TV – and that is where we spent the afternoon watching Ian Poulter and his mates put The Americans to the Sword while drinking Doom Bar.

An incredible 24hrs.

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