NOT many people would guess that the man serving them bacon butties in a Carlton sandwich shop is a top class chef who cooks for athletes in training for the Olympics.
James Hugill began working in Clumber Park Hotel’s restaurant at the age of 15 and over the years has cooked in several other fine dining venues.
Now 34, the small sandwich shop is his latest business venture, having already built up a successful catering company.
He also does a lot of work at Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport, where he plans menus and cooks for sportsmen and women.
James, of Oxford Road, Carlton, said: “They have to eat really healthily so we have to plan the menus carefully.”
“I cook for a lot of the boxers who are training for the Olympics. The trainers tell us what they want them to eat and the budget we have to work within.”
“They tend to eat two cooked meals a day of two or three courses, so we’ll do things like low fat soup, meat or fish with rice or pasta, with fresh fruit or yoghurt.”
“Most of them are on a low fat, high carb diet. I go to boxing camps in Sheffield and have also worked at Ice Sheffield and Don Valley Stadium.”
James, who has met Olympic sprinter Linford Christie, also sets up a food stall at the side of the track.
He has also cooked for guests at Sheffield Wednesday, although says he doesn’t really have an interest in football.
“People pay £100 a head in a private box so we do them a three course meal. I’ve also cooked three and four-course meals for 400 people at Sheffield City Hall,” said James, who went to Worksop’s Valley School.
All of this fine dining seems a far cry from CC’s Sandwich Shop at The Arcade on Long Lane, which James opened in October last year and which has been awarded five stars for hygiene from Bassetlaw Council.
He has already proved his business credentials with Carlton Catering which he runs from home, where he has had an industrial size kitchen built.
He is helped by his partner Sarah Croot, 35, who is a cook at Elkesley School and who also does all the cake baking for the sandwich shop. Her cornflake tart and gingerbread men are selling like the proverbial hot cakes.
“We cater for all special events like weddings, christenings and funerals. We also do business lunches and dinner parties,” said James.
He first went to work at Clumber Park Hotel when he was still at school.
“I went for two weeks work experience and asked for a job. The manager said there was nothing available but the head chef said I was very promising and I got in as a commis chef.”
James stayed until he was 18, working evenings and weekends while also studying fulltime for two years at North Notts College for his NVQ catering qualifications.
He then transferred to the Forest of Arden four star hotel near Birmingham as a commis chef.
His career has also included working for the Charnwood Hotel at Blyth, Center Parcs, and the Pomme d’Or Hotel in St Helier, Jersey, where he was a pastry chef.
“I’ve always enjoyed being a chef, it was what I always wanted to do, and I still enjoy cooking,” said James.
“I particularly like cooking fish dishes because there’s an art to it, it’s easy to overcook fish.”
“My favourite chef is Gordon Ramsay because I think he’s fair. Even though he shouts and swears a lot he also tells people when they have done something good.”
“I’m not like him in the kitchen, I’m more chilled but I like things to go out perfect so I will tell someone to carry two plates at a time rather than four just so it arrives at the table properly.”
James and Sarah have a three-year-old daughter Daisy and are expecting another baby in November. And with two cooks in the family, they’re unlikely to go hungry.