One day I got a call from, Calvin White, my old basketball coach in Chetwynd. He invited me to come be a youth worker in an alternative school.
We did a lot of field trips, and delivered all kinds of programs. I felt a lot of responsibility being in charge of these kids and I knew I had to be a role model. I dressed nicer, was in better shape, and was doing interesting things.
When I think about it, what Calvin gave me was the confidence to think big.
He saw in me what I wasn’t able to see in myself.
At the same time, I had some very influential role models surrounding me, and they opened the world up to me in many ways. They got me reading all the right books.
I’d been a poor student at Stowe so university wasn’t in the cards. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I had to start making a living.
I went to work in Rick’s flagship restaurant in Padstowe. It’s an exquisite place that’s known as one of the best seafood restaurants in the world.
The truth is, when I started I really didn't know anything. I did know about fish, and at Rick Stein’s that was important, but really, I’d never seen half the ingredients in front of me.
This place taught me to cook. I was mentored by some incredible chefs and I soaked up every bit of their training. Within six months I was running hot starters and a variety of stations. After two and half years I could run a kitchen.
© David Griffin
My new found confidence motivated me to continue my education, and so I enrolled at David Thompson University in Nelson, BC with a major in music.
It was a mistake.
I loved playing guitar and knew I wanted to be a musician, but when I got there I realized I was a bit out of my league. I didn’t even read music.
Outside of school I learned a lot. I’d jam with my classmates at house parties and got exposed to a lot of different types of music including world, progressive, and jazz.
Funny thing is that later on in life I developed a music career, and a lot of my well-trained classmates didn’t.
I always played music. It was like therapy, and, over the next few years, I wrote a lot of songs and played a lot of house parties.
But i also got busy with other things.
I met my first partner and we had two children together. I also followed a more conventional career path, working first in a friendship centre back in Victoria, then developing cross-cultural curriculum at Okanagan University College. I even did a Native communications program up in Edmonton and learned about TV, radio, journalism, writing and photography.
After Padstowe I spent the next ten years working at a variety of different restaurants, each time learning different aspects of the craft and the business.
First there was Trehellas House, in Cornwall where I learned to cook game.
Next there was the Poissonnerie de l'Avenue, in Chelsea, where I learned the art of classical French food.
And then there was the La Vinoteca in Ibiza, where I discovered the perfection of Mediterranean cuisine.
Then, one day, I got my big break.
At least I thought it was.
One of England’s most influential chefs, Mitch Tonks asked me to open a new location of his wildly popular restaurant, Fish Works.
In hindsight I was simply too young.
Here I was opening a huge restaurant with 86 seats. The pressure was intense. We opened and it was a huge success. I loved working for Mitch – his food and his ethics on seafood still influence me every day in the kitchen, but I was burnt out. I left exhausted and needing a break.