IN MY OWN WORDS

I left school at sixteen with no idea of what I wanted to go on and do. This led to me feeling lost, frustrated and seeking a sense of purpose. Unfortunately I found solace in the wrong place and to cut a long story short I ended up in a young offenders institute at the tender age of eighteen. I was sentenced to six and a half years for a violent offence.

When I woke on that first morning in custody I realised I had to make drastic changes if I wanted to have any chance of success in my life. I started by changing my attitude as well as my outlook on life. I took on every opportunity that I thought may benefit me in some way upon my release, which at that time felt like a lifetime away.

One of the things that I started to work towards, and no doubt the one that had the biggest impact on my life was The Duke of Edinburgh's Award. In three and a half years I became the first to complete the Bronze, Silver and Gold award. Read more about the DofE by clicking here. 

Working towards my DofE helped me to mould my personality. The volunteering section taught me empathy as well as the importance of being a positive part of the local community. The physical section taught me to look after my physical health and showed the direct impact that it has on mental health which is just as important. Taking part in the expedition section helped me to develop teamwork skills as well as exposing me to a new hobby that is exploring the great outdoors. The section that had the biggest impact on me however, was the skill section. For this, I learnt how to cook. At first it was just the easy route because I happened to be working in the prison kitchen at the time. Little did I know that I was being introduced to a world that would change my life forever.

I learnt the basics of cooking, hygiene practices and food safety whilst working towards an NVQ level 3 in professional cookery. Upon release I was employed by one of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's restaurants. This was the moment that a fire was lit inside of me and my passion for food started.

I went on to work for Jamie's restaurants for five years. During this time my hunger for learning was so great that on my days off I was going to work in various high quality restaurants for free, just to learn what I could.

In 2015 I started up on my own, at first I was offering a private chef service. Later on that year I bought a food truck and I was serving food on the high street as well as at events. In 2016 I was awarded the temporary catering contract for the X Factor. In the same year I was chosen to feature in two adverts for Quorn.

In 2017 I was awarded the permanent catering contract for a market research company of 100 employees. All throughout I was continuing to offer a private chef service for all types of functions but in particular dinner parties. I built up quite a substantial client list which included many celebrities. 

In 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic disrupting the hospitality industry, I was fortunate enough to land a few very regular private clients. As well as this, I started to share recipes via social media, in particular instagram, these have proven to be extremely popular and has seen my public profile grow quote significantly. Sharing my love of food with the masses gives me immense pleasure, hearing feedback from people that have enjoyed the result of following my recipes is what keeps driving me forward.

My journey has been an interesting one over the last fourteen years. I could very easily hide away from my past, however I have seen the effects on other people that my story can have. Since 2016 I have been mentoring young people through the local youth offending teams. I have also been to share my story in various prisons in the UK and abroad. I am incredibly grateful to have been given a second chance in life.

 

This is my story, this is why I have such a deep passion for what I do. 

Copyright 2021, Jon Watts.