A bit about Thierry, our chef
I was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa and I have always been interested in cooking. As a young boy, I really enjoyed baking and after finishing school I enrolled in a cookery school in Belgium, where I won the highest accreditation in the class. This was followed by degree in hospitality, which included experience working in the tourism industry, mainly hotels.
Returning to Africa I worked with a French chef and gained experience in the equivalent of a Michelin star restaurant, mainly preparing French cuisine. When the chef left, I took over his position, continuing to build my knowledge, skills and experience. I gained lots of confidence in creating my own signature dishes.
After four years, I decided I wanted to set up my own restaurant. Myself and a friend set up an Italian restaurant which was very successful, but meant very long hours. After a while I decided to return to Belgium and I worked for a catering event company for two years. When I returned to Africa, this time to Mali I set up a Belgium restaurant, specialising in serving Belgium dishes, using lots of cheese and chocolate, all washed down with speciality Belgium beer.
I have always enjoyed travelling around the world and when I looked for a change a friend suggested I considered working in England. When I first arrived, I worked as a chef at the Fallowfields Hotel in Southmoor. Here the hotel had a kitchen garden and we grew our own vegetables. After a change in management at Fallowfields Hotel I went on work in a care home and Ruskin College, before coming to work as nursery chef at Little Troopers Day Nursery in May 2010.
Throughout my career as a chef I have continued to learn new skills and gained confidence, which has enabled me to experiment with food. It has also helped me to understand how to cook without needing to follow a recipe. This is because I can ascertain what a dish is missing and what I need to add to improve its taste.
I love to create new dishes and I am very influenced by my roots. Due to my extended family who live all over the world, our family Christmas meal always includes a wide range of interesting dishes from a traditional roast to a spicy curry!
Working at Little Troopers is an absolute pleasure, because the children are never negative or critical about the dishes offered to them. They will often look curiously as a new dish is served, but are happy to try it. The children love Tagines; this slow cooked Moroccan dish mixes sweet dried fruits and spices with savoury meats and vegetables whilst remaining mild.
Parents often ask us how we manage to get their children to eat such exotic dishes, its simple we involve the children in the preparation process. The children are able to look, smell and touch some of the types of the ingredients we use, ask me questions about what I am cooking and then as group sit down and tuck in with their peers.
It is important that the dishes I create test the children’s senses; so, to me it’s all about the smell, texture and taste as well as looking exciting and appealing to eat.
As many children attending nursery have allergies and/or food intolerances, cooking from scratch gives me the opportunity to create dishes where the taste and smell is not compromised because some of the ingredients need to a substituted.
Preparing food for the children keeps me very busy in the kitchen so lots of energy is required!