Although still only 25, Emily gained a wealth of experience during her five years on the mainland where she worked alongside and prepared some of her delicacies for many of the world’s most renowned chefs, and even Royalty.
Now she has decided to demonstrate her skills back on the Island where she first arrived from Ipswich with her parents some 17 years ago. Emily attended Ryde High School, but left at 16, and within a week found employment as an apprentice chef at what was then the Snooty Fox in Brading, and also at the Windmill Inn at Bembridge.
She said: “It was always what I wanted to do. I remember at primary school telling everyone I wanted to own a cake shop, and decided the best way to go about it was to become a chef, then a pastry chef, and specialise in more intricate work like cake decoration.”
Emily later worked for seven months at Gracie’s Bakery in Ryde, making the cakes, and often spent from 2am until 3pm six days a week carrying out her duties, but gaining valuable experience along the way.
The Seaview Hotel was her next destination, specialising in pastry, before she decided it was perhaps time to move to the mainland. Emily recalls: “I went on the internet, and sent my CV to every restaurant and patisserie I thought sounded good.
“I sent out about 30, and didn’t mind where I went, and the first to call me back was Daylesford Organics in Gloucestershire, which interested me because they were staunch advocates of organic farming. I was working there within days, after packing all my belongings into my car and just driving off.”
After two years of specialist training, learning how to utilise all the base products, Emily joined the staff at the Michelin Star Yauatcha in Soho – a contemporary dim sum tea house and restaurant. She recalls: “I was amazed by some of the cakes and pastries that were made there – I remember thinking ‘I just don’t know how they do it’. It certainly opened up my imagination that you could actually make things look like that – different shapes and colours and ways of using things.
“There were always lots of celebrities in there – we once had David Walliams and David Schwimmer on the same table when they were doing ‘Little Britain’ for United States television.”
Emily then moved to the Mandarin Oriental, 5-Star hotel in Knightsbridge, after earning a work trial within days of applying for a position. “We did lots of parties with many top celebrities coming in, including the 50 top chefs in the world. The Queen also had her party there for the Middleton family before last year’s Royal Wedding. Others who used to pop in included Sir Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono and virtually all the leading footballers in the London area,” she said.
Emily won an award for her afternoon tea during her 18 months at the Mandarin. But she smiled: “I entered another competition and didn’t get the top award because I had to make a table out of caramel, and stick it together with hot caramel. But at the last minute one of my table legs broke, and the judges told me afterwards, but for that broken leg I would have won the top award.”
Even so, Emily had come a long way in a relatively short time, and her education continued with a transfer to ‘Dinner by Heston Blumenthal’ a one Michelin star restaurant that was later described by The Times newspaper as ‘the best new restaurant in the whole wide world’.
She revealed: “Perhaps people don’t realise that when you work for Heston Blumenthal what it entails. You have to give up your whole life and soul for that position. I worked horrendous, mammoth hours, and it was stress to the maximum. I worked from about 8am until 1am the following morning sometimes. Then I realised I had been away five years and worked very hard so maybe it was time to come back to the Island. You go to London to become a somebody, but in fact you are a nobody when you are there.”
Having also supplied cakes to Harrods, Harvey Nicks, Selfridges, Emily had a CV to be more than proud of, but had not even put it on the internet when she received a call inviting her to meet Royal Hotel head chef Alan Staley. She was initially offered the position of sous chef, but that soon became head pastry chef, which she regarded as ‘the perfect challenge’.
Emily’s exquisite creations are already proving hugely popular, and she has recently undertaken a seasonal tea for residents and guests – which will change four times a year – with the spring tea now on offer. She said: “I am a very seasonal chef. If it is not on the trees, it is not on the plate. I don’t believe in false decoration.”
Emily added: “I am very much a perfectionist, and am always criticising myself. It is important to try to push yourself to do better, rather than just be satisfied with what you have done.”
Professional high-status cooking is traditionally the preserve of men but recently there is a tidal change – this year’s Michelin Guide gave a record number of awards to female chefs. There are currently five female chefs out of 14 at The Royal in Ventnor.