Top chef returns to his Cumbrian roots
Last updated at 11:20, Saturday, 28 January 2012
One of the top chefs in the north west returned to his Cumbrian roots this weekend for a special reunion.
Laurence Tottingham was back at Welton primary school today to meet up again with other old boys and girls.
The former chef at Sharrow Bay and at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, is now chef-patron of the award-winning Aumbry restaurant near Manchester.
Some 20 years on from his time at Welton, Laurence can still remember the name of the school cook – her catchphrase inspired the name for his company.
“She was called Mrs Bell,” he says.
“Every day we’d ask what was for dinner and every day she’d answer ‘kippers and custard’.
“That was partly why I called our company mustard and custard.”
After leaving Welton, Laurence went to Caldew School and took work experience at Sharrow Bay before getting a full time job there and studying at catering college.
He learned the basics of classic cooking under Juan Martin and Colin Akrigg, starting as a commis chef in 1997 and working his way up to chef de partie.
It was at Sharrow that he met his wife, Mary-Ellen McTague and the pair left in 2000 to work in America for a year and a half.
When they returned, they both joined Heston Blumenthal’s brigade of chefs at the Fat Duck.
The Willy Wonka of haute cuisine had two Michelin stars to his name and was on his way to becoming a world-famous star of cooking.
“It was massively different to Sharrow,” he says.
“It was an amazing period.”
The couple were with Blumenthal as he won his third Michelin star and the restaurant was hailed as the best in the world.
They also helped him design and perfect his dishes.
The pair were with the ground-breaking chef for four years, helping to establish his traditional pub offshoot, The Hinds Head and Mary Ellen going on to help plan his historical dishes.
“He never got egotistical about what he did,” says Laurence.
“Everyone was involved in creating the food, he got you to try 20 different ways of doing something, just to get the right method.
“If there was any dish I could put my name on, it would be the soft-boiled quail’s egg mini scotch eggs.
“We do a black pudding version of them now at our restaurant. They have gone down very well and our customers would not allow us to take them off.”
After leaving Blumenthal’s brigade in 2006 the couple moved up to Mary-Ellen’s home region of Manchester and worked for two Michelin-starred chef Paul Heathcote before setting up on their own.
The opened Aumbry in a converted cottage in Prestwich, north Manchester in October 2009.
“We cook British food, locally-sourced. We use a lot of local farmers and forage a lot of herbs locally such as wild garlic, sweet cicely, and wood sorrel.”
Running a business and having two small children – Joe, three, and Patrick 15 months – does not give Laurence much time to return to Cumbria.
But the boy from Sebergham, now 31, has been looking forward to the reunion for former staff, pupils and parents.
The event is the idea of four old girls and was sparked by the school’s closure.
The school, near Dalston, has not had any pupils since September and it legally ceased to be a school on December 31.
An afternoon tea and exhibition of memorabilia and photographs will take place at the village hall between 1pm and 5pm before the venue is transformed to host a disco, bar and finger buffet for guests this evening.
Laurence said: “I’m really looking forward to it.
“I have happy memories of the school, the whole atmosphere of the place was really nice.
“I have great memories of trips out to Hawes End and Eskdale, outdoorsy stuff like that.”
Check out his restaurant at www.aumbryrestaurant.co.uk
First published at 08:59, Saturday, 28 January 2012
Published by http://www.newsandstar.co.uk