Graduate Stories – The Supper Table

Not every student that joins the Ashburton Chefs Academy intends to launch a career as a chef in professional restaurant kitchens.

Student ambitions are varied, from developing their own artisan products, working as personal chefs, or in the case of Clare Fenwick-Hyde (pictured below), launching their own business to suit their passion and life goals.

Clare is the proprietor of The Supper Table, which offers a bespoke personal chef service in your own home.  So if you are planning a family gathering, a dinner party, or a romantic meal for you and your partner, Clare will shake a little professional inspiration into your domestic kitchen.Helping to take some of the stress out of the occasion is a big plus for her clients, but even those who are confident and happy home cooks embrace the time saved to spend with their loved ones during these special occasions.

Once a month, The Supper Table hosts The Malvern Supper Club in Clare’s own home (in Malvern, Worcestershire).  Offering a beautiful 3 course set menu with canapés, coffee and truffles for £27.50 a person, it has proven to be very popular, and also a great way of feeding into the other side of the business. “I’d only recently moved into the area” Clare explains, “so I didn’t know anyone.  It’s proven to be a great way to meet people, both for my guests and for myself.”  Clare has regular guests who look forward to attending The Supper Club, and it’s also perfect for potential clients to sample her cooking before booking private events.

Before attending Ashburton Chefs Academy in 2014, Clare worked in software development, having achieved her degree in engineering. Although quite a change of career, with a life-long love of food and a time spent as a chalet chef in the Alps and Italy, Clare is certain the decision to change came as a shock to no-one.

Clare got the idea to start her own supper club, after reading a book on the subject by food writer Kerstin Rodgers, better known as her blogging alias Ms Marmite Lover.  A divisive name if we’ve ever heard one.  After hosting a couple of successful evenings, she decided it was time to take the plunge, and enrolled for the Professional Culinary Diploma. “I think the main way it’s helped me is the way it’s given me confidence.  Not only in my own abilities, and to try out new recipes, but to actually think that I could set up my own business and do this as a career. I learnt a lot along the way but gaining that confidence is certainly the main thing for me.”  She goes on to say “It’s sometimes the littlest things that make the biggest differences.  Whilst not part of the actual course, just the little tips and ideas that you pick up from the tutors can make all the difference.”

Whilst The Malvern Supper Club and the private catering business have proved to be a success, it’s not the only project Clare has taken on since graduating.  “One of my regulars at the supper club decided to take on a local pub which had been closed for some time.”She was then asked to come onboard to set up the kitchen from the ground up.  “It’s a classic country pub” she tells us “with an emphasis on traditional home-cooked food.”  After spending a couple of months getting the kitchen, and the food reputation up to standard, Clare handed the reins over to someone else.  “It just so happens that the person who took over from me at The Brewers Arms, is also a recent graduate of Ashburton Chefs Academy.  Ellie had just completed her 4 week Level 2 Certificate.”

The Brewers Arms, West Malvern

Clare also responded to one of the job alerts that we send out to graduates, which took her eye.  “It was a wedding venue which was looking for someone to be there, almost as a host.  The family would arrive the day before the wedding, and I would be there to provide the guests with a nice home-cooked meal.”

Describing it as a cross between having your own B&B, and holding the supper clubs that she has enjoyed so much, it was a fun distraction for Clare for a time.

“I’ve since gone back to concentrating solely on The Supper Club and the private catering side of things.  Which is what I really want to be doing.”

Clare recently returned to Ashburton, to take part in the one-day Food Photography course, to ensure that the quality of her pictures reflects the standards of her dishes.  However, she will soon be taking some time away from her business, for the next adventure she will embark on is motherhood.

So whilst her regulars may have to wait a little while for The Supper Club to commence again, they can be safe in the knowledge that it will return before too long.

We at Ashburton Chefs Academy, are very happy and proud of Clare for having forged a career that she will be able to fit around her family and personal life.  After all, isn’t that what most people strive for.

Clare, we wish you, your pending arrival, and your business all the best for the future.

You can follow Clare’s Facebook page, here.

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