Norman Wilkinson, aka Chef Normski is a Scottish IT Consultant-turned-Chef and caterer, who lives in Detillens Lane and whose company, Domestic-Chef Limited has recently taken over the catering franchise for the North Downs Golf Club
Where do you hail from and what brought you to Limpsfield?
We have lived in Detillens Lane for almost 20 years, but I grew up in Scotland (Moray) and went to Nottingham Trent Uni. My father was in the RAF, so we travelled all over – four years in Cyprus, two years in Malta then back to UK when he retired.
I ended up running an IT company for a US software company and based it in Crawley where I hired my now wife! She lived in Caterham-on-the-Hill at the time and when we outgrew that, we bought No.21 Detillens Lane as an apartment, occupying the top two floors. Later, when we had the chance, we bought No.19 (the downstairs apartment) and converted it back into a single house as No. 21.
I still really consider my ‘home’ as Scotland and go up frequently for fishing and to use our timeshare on the Gleneagles Estate in Perthshire.
What do you like or dislike about Limpsfield?
Love Limpsfield – its a lovely community and has plenty of history and character, surrounded by stunning countryside, but close enough to all amenities including train links into London. We back onto the Glebe and have been walking dogs there and on the Chart ever since we arrived.
When did you start cooking “for real”?!
Actually about 20 years ago. I was divorced, living alone and needed to feed myself. When the new girlfriend came along, dinner at my place was my first attempt thanks to Delia’s bible. When we moved in together, I cooked the family meals and became interested in cooking for real.
I went to Le Manoir and Raymond Blanc’s Cookery School on week long residential courses for 3 consecutive years and caught the bug big time. The Exec Chef in the school and I became good friends and when he opened his own Cookery School, I was a regular there – also at Rick Stein’s in Padstow (still go there) and at Ashburton Cookery School that trains professional chefs.
20 years on and here I am – a professional chef running my own catering business!
You worked in IT, so how did that work with running a catering business?
For the last 16 years in IT I worked for IBM, which latterly brought my work in IT together with cooking: I demonstrated IBM’s Chef Watson technology for the BBC on live TV and at several other industry events. I am now retired from IBM to focus full time on the business, as we now run the catering franchise at North Downs Golf Club just outside Woldingham village.
Domestic-Chef Limited includes catering events, cookery school and your in-house restaurant…Which is your favourite part of the business?
The in-house restaurant is no longer a focus due to our location at North Downs, but the cook school remains active and it will continue as one of our lines of business. My favourite part of the business now has to be the Golf Club – a small members club full of real characters who have become friends.
We will be setting up a Restaurant there soon – so watch this space for ‘The Running Fox’.
What sort of skills do you teach in your cook school?
We have a range of more than 20 one-day courses, open to everybody, including families. These range from French Classics to Asian and Italian Cuisine, as well as more skills-based teaching, e.g. Meat & Poultry, Fish & Seafood.
We teach all our students Knife Skills the professional way and also food hygiene basics, how to organise your menus and ingredients when cooking. Teaching will always be a love for me and we are developing that side of things further this year.
What is your personal favourite type of cuisine to cook?
I love working with fish and seafood and I would say that my favourite cuisine is Thai or Thai influence – Indonesian kinda thing.
What else do you like to do in your spare time?
There’s not much of that when you own a business, but I do walk with our lurchers quite a bit and I am a fly-fisherman and a regular at Coltsford Mill and locations throughout the UK.
How can people contact you?
Phone: 07411 761842