A chef who trained under a Michelin-starred restaurateur is fulfilling his lifetime dream of opening his own restaurant, by launching an American-inspired diner at Priory Meadow Shopping Centre.
Among the creations to be served up by culinary expert Kurt Carrington is his secret recipe of pulled pork infused with slow-cooked Coca Cola and BBQ sauce, promising to satisfy the taste buds of food connoisseurs across Hastings.
It has taken the 31-year-old, who trained under top chef Raymond Thompson at his De Flavas restaurant in Kent in his early 20s, the best part of 15 years to accomplish his long-held ambition to run his own restaurant.
Earlier this year he was working as a retail manager in the shopping centre’s Poundland store, looking out at the vacant unit which was to become his new venture and daydreaming about what could be.
Throwing caution to the wind four months ago, he gave up his job and secured funding from his brother-in-law to launch Cowboy Joe’s – an American diner offering fashionable street favourites such as ‘Mac n Cheese’, burritos, homemade burgers and pulled pork.
Almost everything the restaurant serves is being handmade by Kurt and his younger brother, fully trained chef Billy Carrington, 25, who he has employed on the venture, using the best fresh ingredients for maximum flavour and taste.
And now that the big opening has dawned, Kurt can’t quite believe it.
“My dream is finally coming true. I’m quite scared but I’m confident the hard work will pay off,” said the dad-of-two.
“It’s the right time for me. I’m 31 now and I’m older, more sensible and more experienced. It’s always a risk but I don’t want to get to 50 and think ‘damn, I should have done that’.
“When you’re a chef you’re a control freak anyway and you want to do things your own way.
“I’ve spent days and nights trialling lots of recipes. Apart from the fries, nothing is being bought in ready-made, it’s all handmade and made fresh to order. I want to give people something that’s competitively priced but homemade at the same time.”
Priory Meadow Shopping Centre manager Stacey Bell said: “We’re delighted to welcome Kurt and all the team at Cowboy Joes.”
Renowned London chef Raymond Thompson has cooked at the highest level for decades, retaining a previous Michelin star for three years while employed at Faversham restaurant Reads. At the age of 21, he won the coveted Rioja Bocuse’dor (the most respected gastronomic award in the world) before going on to work for Gordon Ramsey opening restaurants such as The Admiral Codrington.
It was while running his own restaurant, De Flavas, that Kurt was given the opportunity of working under his expert eye.
“I was pot washer at first and started right at the bottom before working my way up to become an assistant chef,” he said.
“I was at De Flavas for three years and learnt so much. I learnt a lot of under Raymond’s skilful tuition.
“I’m really passionate about food. My father Robert Carrington is Italian and he used to cook amazing meals. He was really the one who inspired me to become a chef.”
Kurt left the restaurant business after four years to escape the late nights. He moved to Hastings five years ago where his brother already lived and embarked on a retail career which saw him work at Lidl and later Poundland.
But he missed the days of creating innovative and exotic food and never lost his dream to do it all again – in his own restaurant.
“I was already in Priory Meadow working in Poundland and the unit is literally just opposite. You can see if from the window,” said the chef, who admitted his brother-in-law had come up with the quirky restaurant name Cowboy Joe’s.
“I used to sit and stare out of the staff room at lunch and dream about running a food business there.
“I always knew what I would do with it - that it would be a street style American-themed restaurant. When it became available, I went for it.
“I left Poundland four months ago as I thought it would only take a month to get the place up and running but it’s taken a bit longer. The whole place has been ripped out and I’ve started afresh.”
Kurt has tried to maintain a modern style to the restaurant with a few cowboy-themed flourishes including an old beer barrel. The menus appear on television screens.
He wants the food to speak for itself and is looking forward to introducing his favourite creations to a wider audience.
“I noticed there wasn’t anything really modern in terms of fresh street food available and I knew I could bring something new to the town,” he said.
“Street food is really fashionable at the moment. The recipe I’m most proud of is coca cola and BBQ pulled pork which is quite a unique flavour. You’d think it would be too sweet but once it’s boiled down for hours the flavours which come out are really nice.
“All of the cooking will be down to me. I’ve asked for advice from Raymond and another chef friend of mine to help me with some ideas for recipes. I’m really thankful for their insight.”
And although he’s already living his dream, Kurt still has his eye firmly on a successful future.
“This is going to be our guinea pig and starting point. We hope to be able to branch out all over the UK one day.”
For more information about retailers and events at Priory Meadow shopping centre visit www.priorymeadow.com. You can also find the centre on Facebook, and on Twitter: @Priory_Meadow.
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