It is with both pride and relief that husband and wife team Richard and Claudia Bramble celebrate the first anniversary of their new business – at the culmination of a year that has brought closure for many others.
The entrepreneurial Leamington couple had to quickly adapt after launching their new private chef and catering service just weeks before the first Covid lockdown.
It’s a particularly personal milestone for fine dining chef Richard, who, after 18 years, vowed to leave restaurant kitchens behind to establish Bramble Dining so he could spend more time with his family. It’s also the result of a childhood promise he made to himself following a sad chapter that he now looks back on as life-defining.
“When I was eight years old I was put into foster care with my nine-year-old brother. My mum had suddenly left the family home,” explains Richard, 35.
“We were supposed to go into foster care for two weeks to give my dad a bit of a break and get work sorted out so he could be at home more because he worked long hours in the busy restaurant industry. But we ended up staying there for nine years.
“I have a lot to thank my foster parents for. They welcomed me and my brother into the family and taught us a lot of values.
“It’s pushed me to want to succeed in life. In that environment I’ve seen a lot of children who have really struggled and ended up going down the wrong route. But I have always had that drive to work and have a family and prove to myself that things can be done the right way.”
The self-taught chef’s love affair with food began aged just 16 when he took on a part-time job as a kitchen porter. He went on to learn new skills while working with chefs at independent Leamington restaurants where he also perfected his favourite English modern and classical French styles.
But, more recently, with the prospect ahead of increasingly long hours and missed time with his sons, now aged four and two, Richard knew it was time to make a change – unaware of the pandemic in waiting.
He said: “I know the strains that working in a professional kitchen can put on a family and the time you end up spending away from them. I really wanted to do something where I could be a success and also have time at home.
“COVID came as a big shock to us just as were getting up and running. We knew we weren’t going to be able to offer private dining. We also had to effectively freeze all the business plans we had, including a search for premises.”
In between lockdowns, the couple collaborated with four holiday accommodation businesses to offer private chef services to guests, including at Winchcombe Farm Holidays in Upper Tysoe – click here to read more about Winchcombe.
“Guests can enjoy a great restaurant experience by staying where they are and no one has to drive. It’s been incredibly popular,” he said.
Since the Prime Minister’s recent roadmap announcement for easing restrictions, the couple are now looking forward to finally being able to showcase their full range of services to customers, including a full private chef and waiter service. There are three menu options catering for meat and fish lovers, vegans and vegetarians as well as younger diners.
“We’re really passionate about everything we do and believe in the food and service we offer. Hours and hours of work goes into the end products. We understand our clientele and their needs. If a customer comes to us with a request for something obscure we try and make sure we can deliver it.
“We have experience of working in the restaurant trade and know how to successfully bring that across, in both kitchen and front of house.”
^ lightly spiced cauliflower steak with blanched French beans and hazel nut salad finished with orange, garlic and chive dressing ^
He added: “Anyone can follow a recipe but what separates chefs from cooks at home is realising what happens in the cooking processes and the chemistry involved. Not every chef has that eye.
“I’ve got dishes I’ve been cooking for six years that I still tweak all the time. Every dish is a work in progress. So much passion and time and effort goes into every one of them.”
Longer term, there is a shared vision for the Bramble Dining brand becoming established nationwide. At the same the couple’s pursuit for perfection means they are keen not to rush their journey.
Claudia, 34, said: “The last year has been a worry and there have been a lot of sleepless nights but we’ve taken it step by step. Knowing there is now light at the end of the tunnel and we can start serving people again from next month, is fantastic.”
And, for the proud chef especially, it’s a challenge to be relished.
He said: “I haven’t come from a privileged background with investment behind me. I’ve had to work extremely hard for everything I’ve achieved and my main drive is my own children. I look at them and am proud that things are better for them and they have more of a head start than I did.
“I look at the circles I mix in now and the clientele and it’s a big personal step, particularly because a lot of people don’t realise how much I’ve had to go through to get here.”
^ Customers’ favourite: Pan-fried scallops with butternut squash puree and crispy pancetta, popped broad beans and chilli and chorizo oil ^
Bramble Dining is offering outdoor private chef dining experience from April 12th and indoor private chef dining experience from May 17th, assuming the lockdown roadmap is confirmed.
For more information visit Bramble Dining’s website