An experienced chef has traded in his ‘rollercoaster’ life cooking for royalty on private jets and yachts around the world to launch a hog roast business in Selsey.
Thomas Harker, 59, has worked with top chefs including Gordon Ramsey and had cooked in countries including Bahrain, Japan, Korea, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi during his 42-year kitchen career.
Working in both the royal and private flight industry, his guests have included the Queen and Princess Diana, along with many Sheikhs.
He even cooked for Margaret Thatcher when she took a Concorde flight to meet Ronald Reagan in New York – and described the former Prime Minister as ‘quite charming’.
But despite counting himself as having ‘the best job in the world’, he said: “When you’ve done these great big fancy jobs, you kind of yearn to get back to what actually got you into cooking."
The grandfather-of-five moved to Selsey with his wife Debra 18 months and ago, and said: “I fell in love with the place.”
It was after getting to know butchers in the town and meeting a specialist up in Grimsby that Thomas resolved to launch a new hog roast business, bringing his creative flair as a chef to the venture.
“There’s the imagination, technique and the skills I’ve built up over 40 plus years," he said.
It may be a change from serving lobster and champagne to the rich and famous - but Thomas has not always worked in such luxurious settings.
He left home at 16 and landed his first job in a kitchen washing plates at a big hotel after the chefs took pity on him.
He said he had been sleeping in a bus shelter for a few days and was 'cold, wet, miserable - and hungry as a cat' when he stumbled across the hotel and asked for a job.
After two months of cleaning up and doing odd jobs in the kitchen he was offered an apprenticeship - and has never looked back.
His business Gourmet Hog Kitchens has been fully up and running for about a month and Thomas said it is doing well so far.
Using locally sourced meats, the business caters to large or small events, providing spit roasted hogs or lambs with a variety of glazes - find out more about the business here.
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