neil baxter
rundles chef de cuisine
My early years were spent in Singapore and Malaysia exposing
me to food that a 6 year-old from
Fife (Scotland) would not normally have had the opportunity to experience. I did not always know what I was eating. Perhaps it was
then that I conceived of the notion
that it is better to eat first and ask questions later. I do not believe that
I set out to become a chef, but food was never far from my side.

My initial apprenticeship training was at the North Gloucestershire College of Technology, as a Bakery and Confectionary student. I exhibited a natural talent for baking and earned academic distinctions in Bakery Science and Bakery overall. My training at the college began with baking and ended with my being a chef – I am not sure of the reasoning for this, but I am glad that it came
to pass.

When my formal training was complete, and with a basic foundation of cookery knowledge in tow, I decided to travel, eventually ending up in Canada. In 1981, James Morris offered me a Chef de Partie position at Rundles, and by the end of my first season I was promoted to Chef de Cuisine, a position I hold today. Working for James Morris, at Rundles Restaurant, always seemed a natural fit for me – and it continues to fit today.

I was young and keen to broaden my exposure to the best possible cuisine in the world. I wanted to see what I knew, and what I still had to learn. Therefore, during my early years, in the off-season at Rundles, Jim sent me away to France to continue my training under the tutelage of some of the modern masters at various Michelin starred restaurants, including: Jamin, Taillevent, Tour d’Argent and Les Frères Troigros. During this period, I also made the time to complete stages at well recognized North American restaurants, including: JoJo’s and the Quilted Giraffe in New York, and Chez Panisse in California. After three years of staging in France and North America, the time came to put what I had seen and learned into practice. Self-development now came to the forefront.

In 1984, James Morris, along with co-director Eleanor Kane, founded the Stratford Chefs School, and I became The Master of Cookery at the school.
I became responsible for the creation and maintenance of the practical
cookery curriculums, in addition to the dinner lab menus. It seemed a natural extension of the two facets of my job that I would start teaching private cooking classes for people who have a passion for food and wine. I began offering private cooking classes in 1986. That year, I taught one weekend class consisting of 8 people. Today, I teach 6 weekend classes to approximately 90 people.