FRODSHAM’S best kept secret chef has come a long way since he was learning to make sandwiches in cookery class at Helsby High School.
Unmasked by The Chronicle as Tom Kneale, the Frodsham-bred chef now cooks alongside some of the best chefs in Britain, sharing pots and pans with the likes of Raymond Blanc and Michael Caines.
And last Monday (April 4), the former Helsby High School student joined a team of Michelin-starred and TV chefs to create an elaborate seven-course banquet and raise more than £70,000 for the victims of the New Zealand earthquake.
Known as The Secret Chef, the 25-year-old, who attended Horn’s Mill Primary School before studying at Helsby High School, says he was so uninspired by the cookery lessons that he never considered becoming a chef.
“I never wanted to become a chef. Originally I wanted to work in the music industry but when my high school work experience fell through I went to the Chester Moat House for two weeks and the rest is history.
“What I was taught at school about food was pretty shocking – a sandwich and a drink – I find it hard to believe that anyone could be ignited into a passion for food.”
Tom, who is now head chef at Robin Hood's Retreat in Bristol, left Helsby High School in 2000 and trained as a chef at Queen's Moat House, Chester.
Now living in Bristol, Tom who was born in the Isle of Man before moving to Frodsham when he was eight, often returns to his home town to visit his mum, brother and step-dad, who live on Grassmere Road in Frodsham.
“My mum was a big influence. Food was a big part of our life, we had family dinners every night, home-cooked food and we baked fresh bread.
“I love molecular gastronomy, being able to use science and technology available to produce food that you would never imagine being made.”
Monday’s event saw Tom join Michelin-star chef Matt Tompkinson to create a desert which would have left Heston Blumenthal green with envy.
At the event which saw hundreds of food-lovers fork out £150 for the meal, Tom wowed diners with his ‘chocolate orange’, a dark chocolate delice with lavender ice cream covered with burnt orange syrup.
The feast was originally intended to be a small-scale charity dinner, but with word spreading through Twitter more than 200 diners attended the event.