Video: Chris remembers friend and mentor through shared treats for NHS

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Chris Newman of Homme Nouveau prepared scones for PCH and Papworth in memory of his friend. Photo: John Baker

Well-known Ramsey chef Simon Harding passed away with the coronavirus earlier this year, and Chris, who runs fine dining restaurant Homme Nouveau in the centre of Whittlesey, decided to do something in his memory - baking 229 scones complete with clotted cream and jam and delivering them to two hospitals on either sides of the county.

Inside Chris' restaurant is now a plaque and a canvas picture of the duo and others, marking a time when everyone was younger and when Chris was starting his culinary career.

Chris (35) said: "Simon was my first head chef when I left Ramsey College at the age of 17. I got a part-time job at the Bow Window restaurant, which has now closed down.

"He trained me for two-and-a-half years with his soux chef James - they literally taught me everything I knew about the basics of cookery.

The photo and plaque at the restaurant - Simon is on the far left. Photo: supplied

"I moved on and did the local pubs and restaurants, but we kept in touch. I decided to open my own restaurants as a more modern version of what the Bow Window was.

"The way I cooked was how I'd cooked ever since Simon taught me, and Simon and James came to the launch - it was nice to be able to show them how far I'd come, and without them I wouldn't have been able to do this. 

"I was also lucky enough to cook for them and their wives earlier this year. By then the Bow Window had closed a couple of years ago, and they'd both taken separate paths. 

"Simon was a real character - just a genuinely nice person. His customers loved him and James and the restaurant was a heart of the community for many years.

"When he passed away his family were distraught, as was the community - I understand many people queued in Ramsey to watch the procession on the day of the funeral, which obviously people couldn't actually attend.

"I decided I wanted to do something so I baked the scones and delivered them to my local hospital PCH, for their Covid wards, and then on to Papworth where Simon was very well looked-after.

"Even though it's not a lot, it's a little pick-me-up for them to have on an afternoon with a cup of tea when they get a break. It's a little morale boost at such a hard time."

It's not been an easy time since March for the hospitality trade. Homme Nouveau had only been open since November and had enjoyed a good Christmas, New Year and Valentine's Day.

But then the lockdown struck on Mother's Day weekend, traditionally the second-biggest time of the year for meals after Christmas - leaving the new restaurant without the capital behind it of a year or two of business that older venues possess.

Chris has furloughed his staff, but while the restaurant is closed he is still working six days a week, delivering ready meals and 60-70 afternoon teas a week on average.

He said: "We've had to put a hold on life, which is heartbreaking in a sense. We were doing so well, really busy, so to be stopped in our tracks on Mother's Day weekend was tough.

Chris Newman prepared these scones for hospital staff. Photo: Chris Newman