Happy to share my experiences

Born in France, I have been trained by my mother to enjoy good food. She has been my inspiration mixing her Russian heritage to our French background. She grows up in France, going through the War, my mother always made sure we had plenty of food on the table. She loved to use cheap cuts of meat like ox heart, lamb brain, tongues. She used to go the Les Halles with a friend of hers to buy large (and cheaper) quantity of vegetables to share between both our families.

My mother did not go to a catering school but she knew how to cut a meat, prepare vegetables and cook a Russian Borsch (3 days) or a Salmon Koulibiac.

So, when I started going to the French Scouts, I was the one who did most of the cooking for our team aged 10 or 12. When around 18 I was mountaineering in the Alps and having to make a mash potatoes for the team, we forgot to bring some fresh milk and bought a very expensive tub of Condensed milk to dilute with the fresh mountain water to make our mash. Yark! a sweet potatoes mash!!! I also remember the day as a scouts we went to a farm, killed our chicken and pluck it before cooking it….. We roast it on the fire. So closed to nature a delight …. although I have forgotten to take away the bile out before cooking!!!

We all still remember it! And those mistakes makes you better cooks.

I work in marketing for the first 10 years of my working life. First in the building industry then I join the French subsidiary of an American survey company Nielsen and advised the French Supermarket buyers on the trends for products going from nappies, toiletry, all the food products. Going all over France and testing on the way some very good restaurants. This lasted 3 years before I went to the State to work with a double uncle of mine [2 sisters married 2 brothers :-)] trying to sale chemicals and pulses.

New York was an inspiration for me, I was introduced to Sushi, Mexican food, and it was there, I met my wife who is from the Dominican Republic.

After a year back in Paris where we got married in 1977, we headed to London where I opened the subsidiary of one of the largest French Cheese Company Bongrain {today called Savencia Fromage & Dairy]. We were due to stay 2 to 3 years, we stayed 12 for that company. I was one of the few who introduced French Specialty Cheeses to the UK market dealing with a large number of willing Delicatessen but also with the large and powerful supermarket like Tesco, Sainsbury or Marks & Spencer. I introduced to them Doux de Montagne, Tartare, Chaumes, Saint Agur and many others.

The UK food market was quite poor when we arrived at the end of 1977. No baguette only the bread loaf! Food shop were only open up to 18.00 and closed after 13.00 on Saturday until Monday morning.

The restaurant scene was also quite poor, a few French Restaurants (Roux brothers) and the fancy Greek restaurants where the only options. What a change in the last 25 years. London has become one of the best restaurant city in the world.

After a year in Paris in 1988, we run back to London where I worked briefly for the subsidiary of a French Catering company High Table – now Elior UK,

In November 1991, I created TRAY GOURMET Ltd a French catering company trying to launch a hugely successful concept in the French market: Meal on Tray for the boardrooms.

My main customers were French companies in London who knew of the concept and ease of use. It has been difficult to convinced the British one and it took me a few years to understand the difference between the Northern Europeans and the Southern Europeans….

Tray Gourmet was mainly selling traditional French catering: dinner parties, Wedding, Cocktails, Bar Mitzvah, Boutique launches etc… and quite successful and appreciated. We had some celebrities, but also the French Residence or French Consul as clients. I work 8 years for private dining for the Head of the European Central Bank.

But it was not enough and in November 1998 we open a French Delicatessen on Fulham road just opposite the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, selling French produced imported directly from France, we had a Cheese counter (of course) and a made on the spot French Sandwich Baguette. All prepared from our catering kitchen below the shop.

This lasted 19 years!!!!! In August 2017, I sold the lease of the shop and stopped my catering business…. It was time for pre-retirement.

I so miss the contact with the wonderfull people who were the regulars at the shop… but being now “associated” with the B Bagel Shop, 2 doors away, means that I do continue to come along what used to be called “The Beach” on Fulham Road and meet some of them from time to time….

C’était le bon temps!!!