Steve - our Chef


He’s regularly cited by the children as their favourite person at Cherry Trees and when you see what gets served through the hatch each night it’s not hard to see why. Coupled with running our cookery and baking sessions for the children, our Chef Steve is inventive, knowledgeable and is helps to create that very special homely feel to Cherry Trees with his cooking.

‘I joined Cherry Trees in February 2018, having spent the previous 7 years supporting adults with disabilities to cook for themselves and catering for others. Cherry Trees provided a new opportunity to work with children.

My cooking career started over 15 years ago, when in September 2002 I gave up the day job in maritime insurance and went to catering college in Carshalton. My first professional experience was in a high end private members club in Mayfair owned by a celebrity chef. It is fair to say I decided very quickly this wasn’t for me!

Since then I have greatly enjoyed cooking in a small restaurant, large scale catering, hospice, care homes and The Grange.

At Cherry Trees there are lots of different dietary requirements to think about for each of our children and with each evening meal I prepare, the starting point I think about is to offer a varied balanced menu, which is inclusive to everyone. Food has to be safe and dishes that people want to eat.  From there ensuring as much as possible is homemade means we have control of what goes in. All dishes can then be made gluten free, reduced sugar, or adapted for dairy intolerance. We are a nut free house, the advantage of home-made is reducing exposure to “may contain” on many packet foods. 

The best part of Cherry Trees is seeing children trying foods they have not tried before, or a child with a “self limited diet “ asking for a seconds of chicken curry with extra coriander, or an unexpected quiet in the dining room with just contented munching.

We know for lots of our parents diet is very important to the children and so we want to cook meals with tasty, healthy ingredients. The kitchen basics come from a well known supermarket, but after that all our meat we get from a local butcher in Bookham; ‘Rawlings and Kensit’. Keith there understands Cherry Trees and provides high quality produce. We can order whatever we need such as gluten free sausages. Ray Layton is our go-to Greengrocer in Bookham, again very local, and the quality far exceeds that of the supermarket. Ray also supports Cherry Trees with collection tins, occasional fruit baskets and donating extra fruit and vegetables.

Since joining Cherry Trees I have had lots of memorable moments, both working in the kitchen, at events and even at supporters homes. Once I was ‘auctioned and raffled off’ – that saw me cooking in a farm house with a golden Labrador lying in the middle of the floor, where the 5 second rule didn’t apply. Nothing ever actually hit the floor! Cooking for two directors of Disney’s Lion King in a fabulous kitchen in West London with power sockets and extractor fans that rose out of the work surface was a ‘different day at work’.

I have seen in and sung many Happy Birthdays to so many of the children and young people here and it is a feel-good factor of my job to be the one to come up with each cake design, look and toppings that get a lot of excited reactions when people see the finished cake. At Cherry Trees knowing the children is the key, what would they like, be it an iPad , something “horsey”,  Shrek,  or “Room on the broom” and then converting it into cake. I probably get it from my Grandfather who owned a bakery in Clapham so it’s in the blood.


Steve in the house kitchen with one of those famous birthday cakes.

Every-one made for each child is different and brings a lot of smiles at tea-time.