• Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

North East Connected

Hopping Across The North East From Hub To Hub

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A catering expert who is celebrating 25 years in business has cooked up a new idea to help people get fit, eat healthily and cope with their mental health issues.

 

Chris Reay gave up his research job in TV to fulfil his dream of having his own catering business. Starting off by cooking in his parents kitchen for corporates and weddings his business “Epicurus” quickly grew with Chris finding premises and taking on additional staff.

Now 25 years later, the business has grown into a catering, equipment and staff hire company and has survived despite the effects of a recession, the pandemic and a consequent downturn which led to Chris rethinking his business model and streamlining the way the business operates.

“Like a lot of businesses, we struggled to provide catering during COVID as there were no weddings or events. This period made me think long and hard about the business and I realised that it had grown to such an extent that I was spending too much time managing people and that I wasn’t doing what I loved doing best – cooking.”

The period of inactivity also saw Chris suffer with mental health issues which he decided to tackle by finding a new hobby and getting more exercise.

“I’d always loved getting into the mountains and walking so I decided to take a mountain leadership course and once I qualified as a guide, I had the idea of incorporating my love of the outdoors with my other passion – food.”

Chris has now formed a new part of his business “Fells Kitchen” where he guides parties in the Cheviots and the Lake District, teaches navigation to those that want to learn, then cooks his fellow walkers a nutritious gourmet meal in the great outdoors.

“I’ve found that there are people who want to experience hiking in the fells but are worried about how to go about it. I offer safe and practical walks that are suitable for all ages and abilities. So far, we have had groups of mums conquering Blencathra in the Lakes and numerous walks for individuals and groups in the Cheviots as well as those wanting a more adventurous experience ghyll scrambling near Alston and in the Lake District too.

“As well as catering for individuals and small groups, I’m also running corporate team building days which are proving popular as an alternative to the boozy night out networking events that have traditionally been seen as the only way to bond.”

Each hike is complemented by a meal made of fresh ingredients which are carried by Chris then cooked and served al-fresco with varied menus including Northumberland Lamb Slow Cooked in a Tomato and Mint Sauce Spiced Couscous and Flat Bread followed by Lemon Cheesecake and Raspberries. Chris also caters for vegans and those with special dietary needs.

As well as experiencing good food, fantastic scenery and getting physical exercise, Chris has noticed that his mental health has improved since starting Fells Kitchen.

“There is nothing like getting out onto the hills to shake away the cobwebs and to allow you time to think. I’m looking at working with a mental health charity to explore how we can help more people get a different perspective on their life by getting out and walking and then sharing a meal with new found friends.”

When he’s not out walking or supplying catering to events, Chris works from his brand-new premises at Mandale Park, North Shields where one half of the building is dedicated to Epicurus and the other, Fells Kitchen.

“I feel as if I’ve come full circle over the last 25 years from starting off with my dream to become a caterer to now where I’m working with fantastic people, keeping healthy in body and mind and cooking in some of the most beautiful settings in the world.”