Where are they now? Linda Galloway

/ Categories Alumni, Career stories / Author:

Where are they now? Linda Galloway

2005 graduate Linda is Co-Owner & Director of catering company, Pestle and Mortar Events.

Proud to be Blue C

Food has come a long way since 2005. A decade of economic turbulence has seen us swing from high-end Fine Dining to dirty Street Food and, more recently, find a comfortable middle ground between the two in good neighbourhood restaurants , a focus on provenance and sustainability and doing things well.

But some things never change. Despite a new postcode, the arrival of camera phones, blogging and an online foodie elite, ‘the Leiths way’ still rules.

Ten years after graduating I am still working in food, still motivated by the food industry, still collapsing exhausted after 18-hour days, wondering why I do it and then getting up and doing it all again.

Having been a private chef, head chef, caterer and consultant , a desire to expand my catering business led me to my current position as co-owner and director of Pestle and Mortar Events, a commercial catering business in the heart of hipster Shoreditch with a private restaurant called Bootleg Banquet as part of the business.

With my business partner Pieter Maritz we have grown the operation and our clients now include the Crown Estate, Google and other big names. One day we might be working on a lunch for 180 or a wedding for 150, the next a private dinner party for 26. No two days (or events) are ever the same so each client has a bespoke service from consultation to costing to menu development and delivering the event. There are no catch-all Menu A, B or C to be emailed out, which can be both time-consuming and frustrating but it helps us stay connected to our customers.

In contrast to high-end corporate catering, Bootleg Banquet gives us a chance to have fun in a more relaxed environment.
Our days are long – there is marketing, social media, admin, staff management, food safety systems and red tape to plough through but there is still a big kick to be had from hospitality.

Food came late to me. My mother says that as a teenager I vowed to eat only from tins, using a plastic fork – a reaction to washing up, rather than food, I suspect. But in my late 20s and 30s I started entertaining friends (notably a vodka fruit soup starter c.1996, then Nigel Slater became my guru) and discovered a great hobby.

I chose Food as a second career after 22 years in journalism in South Africa and in London, where I worked on The Times and the Sunday Times in various roles. My final job on The Times involved editing the food and drink pages, working with writers such as Frances Bissell and Jane MacQuitty, Jill Dupleix, Fiona Beckett and Henry Harris.

The Diploma year was intense, and testing. The pace was unrelenting, the standard high, the curriculum challenging. In many instances you only get one go at something, and then it’s on to the next. But five years later, whether you’re making 100 suet-pastry puddings or chopping parsley, the method is still embedded in the brain and you do it ‘the Leiths way’.

On Day 1 in the kitchen (knife skills, crudité), I asked our class tutor, Neil Armstrong, why carrots had to be square. He paused to allow the steam to escape from his ears before calmly replying, ‘because I said so’. Although I tested his patience on a few more occasions over that year, we became friends and I have with great pleasure worked for and with him on many occasions since leaving Leiths.

My baptism by fire on graduating was to work in Scotland as a private chef to the Dowager Countess of Cawdor – a formidable dragon with a castle and estate just outside Nairn – where I regularly entered the kitchen to find a roe deer carcass on the kitchen table, left by the game keepers. The loin was for Sunday lunch, the rest of the meat was minced for her dogs. The freezer was full of fresh and smoked salmon from the estate, and there was the most amazing organic fruit and vegetable garden just a short walk from the kitchen door, where everything from 10 varieties of salad leaf to artichokes, raspberries and cress could be picked as required.

Lady Cawdor handed down a seven-day menu in advance, chosen from her library of cookbooks (upstairs and out of bounds) which ranged from Nobu, Jean-George Vongerichten, Georges Blanc to Lady Maclean’s Diplomatic Dishes. I made her oatcakes for breakfast (rolled between sheets of baking parchment) with pressed apple juice to order, I stuffed artichokes with parsley puree, made sushi, char-grilled langoustine, made souffles, poached lobster, stuffed ravioli and prepared intricate desserts, mostly just for Herself, dining alone.
I found cooking for one rather trying and soon headed eagerly back to London.

After that I worked at a private members’ tennis club in Notting Hill where ladies who lunch demanded interesting salads and sourdough bread, gentlemen members demanded rare rib-eye steaks and children devoured chocolate brownies as fast as we could make them.
Always (and still) convinced I was too old to work in restaurants, I went out on my own, with a small catering company called Daffodil Soup, working from my Islington kitchen, supplying coffee shops with cakes, brownies and desserts.

I rode out the recession (tough for a small business) with a succession of consultancies, working with Chris Barber and Leiths Food Solutions, most notably on a new product development contract for Millie’s Cookies, rebranding and refreshing their entire range. It’s fun now to pass a Millie’s store and see the products I developed for them on sale.

Every day I keep on learning, building on what I learnt on St Alban’s Grove.

Thank you Neil, Claire, Alison, Marianne, Sue, Helene, Max and the Class of 2005.

www.pestleandmortarevents.com
twitter: @pandmevents + @bootlegbanquet + @daffodilsoup
Instagram daffydaffdaff


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