I was fortunate enough to meet Cat when I recently dined at The Abbey, which you can read all about here. Cat’s enthusiasm for local produce and her new restaurant made me want to know even more about her journey. So I’m super excited that she’s my second guest in the Meet The Local series.
Cat’s originally from Australia but has spent the past six years working in London – previously Head Chef at the prestigious Petersham Nurseries. I feel like this post should come with a warning as it’s highly likely that you’ll be hungry by the time you’ve finished reading – her food doesn’t just look amazing, but it tastes incredible too!
A typical day for me starts… by organising and planning the day ahead over a strong coffee, and then heading to work. It’s been a big couple of weeks getting the restaurant ready to open, busy but very rewarding. The day at work starts with sorting through the amazing fresh deliveries from our wonderful suppliers. It’s incredible to see what Hertfordshire has to offer. The next job is planning the menu for the day and working closely with the team to get ready for service. Right now training is key and we are working with a great team to deliver amazing food and service. It’s so satisfying to see lots of happy guests and staff after service when I head down to the dining room. After chatting to a few guests, I head back to the kitchen to organise the team ready for the new day ahead.
The one thing do I love most about my job is… The creativity! I love sourcing new products or discovering a new local Hertfordshire farm and what they have to offer. Just last week i discovered the most amazing halloumi from Lewis of London, a little dairy farm on the border of London and Hertfordshire. The halloumi is creamy and so flavourful, I just can’t wait to get it on my menu whether it will be on a new breakfast menu or grated into a beautiful courgette & mint fritter. This same farm supplies our lovely ice cream and I love supporting local businesses.
I ended up working in my current job as… after six years of working in London and some amazing experiences, an opportunity came to open a new restaurant. After viewing several potential restaurant locations, we fell in love with Hertfordshire and the beautiful historic city of St Albans. It’s such a beautiful city and we really felt like our restaurant would be at home there with access to great farms and suppliers. It’s a great location with customers that appreciate a neighbourhood restaurant serving seasonal and sustainable food.
The best piece of advice I received was work hard, but work smart. I believe hard work is the key to success, but sometimes you have to take a step back and start to appreciate things. Instead of doing everything yourself, learn to delegate and teach others. Everyone likes learning new skills and you realise how lucky you are when you get to teach people things that you have learnt yourself and see how how it helps them grow
My most memorable memory was my first winter in London and my first snow! I went to the back garden at my new job at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, it was covered in snow and I was hunting for a special for the the day. I knew there were Jerusalem Artichokes in there somewhere, so i saw the tips of some yellow sunflower-like beauties, i start digging and un-earthed some of the most beautiful artichokes id have ever seen! Perfect, simply scrubbed and shaved raw over some beautiful hand-dived scallops
Pub in St Albans: Just down the road from The Abbey, I like to pop into The Boot for after-work drinks. I love the old-school pub vibe with so much history! Great music, staff and a nice selection of drinks. And if I’m in the mood for a cocktail, I head across the road to Suckerpunch. Amazing Negroni’s and staff to keep you entertained for hours.
Place to eat in St Albans: When I get the rare night off I do love heading the The Foragers @ at the Verulam Arms. There’s always an exciting menu, using local foraged ingredients in fantastic ways. The menu is really seasonal and their pork belly is always a winner.
Memory of St Albans: My first time walking around Verulamium Park. Coming from Australia, I have a love for nature and its surroundings. Long walks around the park with such a beautiful sunset backdrop is my perfect way to end a day.
Place to have a coffee: My favourite place for coffee is also our neighbour in St Albans, the George Street Canteen. Always a perfect cup (and great for brunch), and also dog-friendly! Great chance to meet the locals (and their pups). I also love picking up a takeaway coffee on my way home from Charlie’s. Their knowledge on coffee is great and i love learning new things!
Place to buy a present: When I buy presents for someone, I absolutely love buying food-related presents. Its’ always something that I’ve tried or that I absolutely know they will love. In St Albans, I head to the Fleetville Larder. From cheese, chutneys to craft beers, they have you sorted. Amazing products and great as a gift for someone (or as a present for yourself.. ’cause its a Thursday and hey, you deserve it!)
A huge thank you to Cat for taking the time to answer my questions. You can go and try out her food at The Abbey which is at 8 George Street, AL3 4ER. To make a booking email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01727 841524.
Remember to check back next Thursday to meet my next guest!