Hospitality Table Cornwall Chairman Jude Kereama tells us about his journey through the industry, from travelling the world, to owning two award winning restaurants in Porthleven, Cornwall.
Studying Psychology and Sociology at University, Jude Kereama didn’t see becoming a Chef as a career but was bought up in a family that was passionate about food.
“I’ve always been surrounded by good food. My mother was a fantastic home cook and I marvelled at how she would cook for our family of seven and produce a variety of delicious dishes from New Zealand classics and from her motherland Malaysia. We were all given little jobs everyday around the house and I always liked to be in the kitchen with Mum, especially when it was a baking day.”
Jude was studying at University doing a B.A in Psychology and Sociology, and at the same time was cleaning dishes in a local hotel to earn some extra money.
“I loved the atmosphere in the kitchen, the camaraderie, the pressure, and the excitement as each day threw the chefs a different challenge. The longer I worked there, the more prep work they trusted me with.”
As Jude grew more despondent by his peers at University, his passion was growing for kitchen work. One day the Executive Chef called him into the office and offered him an apprenticeship, knowing how fond of the kitchen he was
“That was my ‘eureka’ moment. It finally dawned on me that I knew I really wanted to be a chef. I was extremely excited and couldn’t wait to race home and tell Mum and Dad about my switch of careers only to have a disapproving response – they soon respected after Jude’s pleads to give him a chance to train as a Chef.”
Trying to prove his parents wrong, Jude has always buried his head in cookbooks, mobbing up the ranks in the Hotel before accepting an opportunity to be a Sous Chef for a friend who had been travelling around Europe.
“He was starting a new exciting restaurant in town and he told me of his travels and what he had learnt working in some great kitchens like The Brackenbury, and Gary Rhodes. He opened my eyes to new ideas and techniques that I had never seen. It made me realise how much I had to learn about this trade but again, how I would never be bored for inspiration.”
Jude moved to Auckland to head his first restaurant at the age of 22, despite being out of his depth. With a young, determined team who relied on each other so much, they were more like his family than his colleagues.
“We got noticed by local newspapers and hospitality and it was a real hit. We were soon visited by many people in Hospitality, one of them being Simon Gault, who had New Zealand’s ‘Restaurant of the Year’. We struck up a rapport and he offered me a Sous Chef job with him. I eagerly excepted, as I knew working with New Zealand’s best chef would be my next step to learn more. After one and a half years with Simon, I had an urge to use my 2-year working visa and travel the world to experience different styles of cooking around Europe.”
“As a child, we had a pretty humble upbringing with no money for a tennis ball, let alone the thought of ever travelling the world, but cooking had given me that opportunity that no other career could of given me, the chance to travel and cook and learn where ever I desired.”
Jude then went to London, where he worked in top-class restaurants and met his future wife.
“Another dream of mine was to go to Cornwall and visit the place of the Arthurian tales that I read and loved as a child. My wife Jane and I visited Cornwall as her mother lived there and she had been holidaying down there every year since day dot. I loved every bit of Cornwall and knew after Jane and I got married that we would love to bring up a little family here.”
The pair eventually stumbled upon Porthleven, where they have now lived for 15 years. They have have two restaurants, Kota and Kota Kai which Jude and his wife are extremely proud of. Kota has been awarded three AA rosettes and a Michelin Bib Gourmand, and Kota Kai has an AA rosette.
“Representing the South west for Great British Menu has been one of my proudest moments. It really is competing on a different level. That pressure you feel in that kitchen is something else, but it is important to keep pushing out of your comfort zone to better yourself.”
Hospitality has given Jude the opportunity to travel and experience a life style that allows his the freedom to express what he feels.
“I’m fortunate to have found a vocation that I truly love and passionate about. Every day is a different and exciting challenge.”