Behind the scenes at Paul's Kitchen cookery school in Barrowford
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 February 2016 | UPDATED: 20:46 10 June 2016
Chef Paul Dickson has gone from cooking for royalty and Hollywood stars to helping novice cooks turn out food fit for a Queen.
Paul Dickson’s passion for cooking is easy to see. Watching him whirl around his kitchen in Barrowford, he chatters excitedly while chopping up a huge batch of herbs and vegetables for a Cambodian dish he is preparing.
It is the 46-year-old’s passion for his craft that has driven him on as a chef over the past three decades.
Paul, originally form the North East, moved to London aged just 17 in pursuit of becoming a chef. He had shown promise in cookery lessons at high school and a teacher encouraged him to nurture his talents.
‘This was at a time when boys weren’t supposed to be good at cookery,’ he remembered. ‘But it just came very naturally to me and I was better than all of the girls. That teacher really pushed me to get better and to try at becoming a chef.’
His first job was at a Holiday Inn before making the big jump to Le Meridien Piccadilly. In the capital Paul worked for some of its top restaurants and as executive chef for Yo Sushi as well as leading corporate banking kitchens including a stint as executive chef for JP Morgan where he led a kitchen of 18 people.
During this time he cooked for a host of internationally renowned actors including Leonardo DiCaprio at the private after party of the film The Beach, singer Robbie Williams and the Queen as well as a host of leading financiers and dignitaries from across the globe.
‘Going into corporate fine dining was absolutely amazing, said Paul, who has also worked as a DJ. ‘Working for top directors and important clients was important in that world. It was the kind of thing that could help make and break deals.
‘I could also be very creative and I didn’t have strict budgets. It was all about being able to impress clients and turn out incredible food. We had the staff to do it and it was something I really loved. I had amazing energy levels when I was younger and I thrived.’
It was having children Spike and Stella, now 15 and 13, with Burnley-born wife, Julie, a freelance fashion stylist, that prompted a move to Lancashire eight years ago. He has turned part of his home, one of three converted from the Victorian former St Thomas’s Primary School in the village, into his Paul’s Kitchen boutique cookery school.
All Paul’s courses take place in his kitchen where he teaches everyone from complete beginners to budding Jamie Olivers. There is not a sign of stainless steel and not a hint of a commercial kitchen. Paul has chosen each item carefully, from the beautiful wooden workbenches to the gadgetry he loves to collect. Class sizes are a maximum of five.
He loves teaching people new skills but it is also important that it is a social event. He holds courses on everything from making the perfect macaroons and baking to learning how to cook the perfect steak and Middle Eastern cuisine. He also tailors courses for specific eating plans including paleo diets, clean eating and general healthy eating and does children’s parties.
‘It’s really nice being in a home setting,’ he said. ‘It is a lovely thing being in this old village school teaching people new skills. I want people to come here and feel totally at home and enjoy themselves as well as learn something
‘I don’t feel like there is anything like this anywhere else in Lancashire, where they have the kind of set up I have. I feel very proud of that. Everybody can cook, some just need a helping hand. For others it’s brushing up skills or giving them more advanced ones. It’s a lot of fun.’
Paul, who is a Craft Guild of Chefs Master Craftsmen and was the youngest recipient at 23 of a prestigious Acorn Award, also hosts pop up dining events in his home as well as cooking events for CrossFit Pendle and private dining in people’s homes.
‘Food and gathering around a table to eat is a social thing, said Paul. ‘Sharing food sparks conversation and I think it’s something people enjoy doing. I love creating dishes where everyone can tuck into one big dish in the centre of the table and help themselves.
For more information visit www.pauls.kitchen.