Liz has got foodie fever
It’s not always easy being the child of a trained chef, even if you love cooking.
Liz Tee’s father Joe is always grumbling about her knife skills.
“If he sees me chopping he’ll say: ‘Liz, get those fingers out of the way!’” she said. “I never cut myself!”
A few months ago she started thinking that her father, who once worked in the kitchen at London’s world-renowned Savoy Hotel, was right; she needed to take her cooking skills to another level.
Running Troncossi Public Relations for 18 years, she hadn’t had a lot of time to devote to her culinary passion.
“Sometimes when you get home after a long day, you just don’t feel like it,” she said.
So, in January, she decided to take a year off and do something fun. She closes Troncossi today and, on September 9, moves to the UK to study at Le Cordon Bleu London.
“It’s the three-month basic cuisine course,” she said. “I’ll be learning knife skills, how to make stocks and sauces, classic vegetable cuts, fish filleting, basic butchery, basic doughs, pasta and puff pastry.”
The aim isn’t to become a professional chef; she just wants to throw some killer dinner parties for her friends.
“It is just for fun,” she said. “And I love entertaining.”
She announced her plans last week after keeping them under wraps for months.
“People were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so much to digest’,” she said. “They said they needed a moment.”
Those who know her well, however, weren’t that surprised.
She’s an avowed foodie, and in October will celebrate ten years as a member of gastronomy and wine club, Chaîne des Rôtisseurs.
“I’ll be elevated at the London club,” she said proudly. “I am currently Dame de la Chaîne. After the elevation ceremony, I will be an officer.
“I have always appreciated good food, because I know how many hours certain things take to make. I always appreciate when chefs give it a special effort. I went to this dinner once at the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs here.
“The head chefs had prepared these eggs for us in a bathtub and they had slow cooked them all day, and they tasted amazing.
“When people take hours to reduce a stock to make a sauce, I have so much appreciation for that.”
Ms Tee, 46, described herself as an overachiever both in her working life and her cooking.
“I always put in 120 per cent of effort,” she said. “I just want to do my best at all times. I love entertaining and will make everything I can for a dinner party.”
She’s the type of home cook who always has all her ingredients out and neatly arranged before she starts cooking.
The idea of an emergency run to the grocery store in the middle of meal preparation, is foreign to her. She can’t yet say which type of cooking she wants to focus on at Le Cordon Bleu. “I want to learn it all,” she said. But she does have a particular love for baking.
She grew up with a strong family culinary tradition.
Her paternal grandfather, Joseph Tee, was a chef at the Carlton Hotel in London, a luxury hotel that operated from 1899 to 1940; her maternal grandfather, Frank Holding, was a chef in the Second World War.
“He was a column officer,” she said. “He would cook for troops following bombings in Lancashire, England.”
Her parents, Carole and Joe Tee, both trained as professional chefs and met in hotel management school in Brighton, England.
“My father worked in the kitchen at the Savoy, but later moved to the finance office,” she said. “He’s an accountant now.
“My mother is the most fabulous cook. She’s an artist and has a retail store in Dockyard, but she once ran a restaurant on Regent Street in London.
“Growing up, especially at Christmas time, there was homemade fudge, pâté and shortbread.
“Everything was always absolutely delicious. She would have dinner parties for 20 and there would be this most amazing spread. I love to entertain, myself.
“My parents discuss every dish they eat at home or in a restaurant to the minute detail.
“Their love of cooking is something I have absorbed whether I wanted to or not. It has always been part of my life.”
As such, they’re delighted she is going off to cooking school.
“They always taught me to follow my passion,” she said.
She started cooking at 8, using her mother’s Cordon Bleu books. “She loved entering banana bread or ginger bread made with lemon curd in the Agricultural Exhibition.
“I don’t recall having any supervision making my entries,” she said. “I suppose my mother was in the background somewhere.”
When she got older she considered becoming a professional chef, but went a different route.
“I organised my graduation ball for my secondary school in England,” she said. “My classmates said, ‘Oh you did a really good job, you should go into public relations’.”
So, she took their advice, thinking it would be all about planning parties.
It wasn’t, but she still had “loads of fun”. One of her first clients in London was Diana Moran, the English model and fitness guru.
“I had so much fun arranging for her to be on radio talk shows all over England and writing for her health shows,” Ms Tee said. “I just had so much fun doing it. It really cemented my path into PR.”
Later, she worked for the financial services team at leading firm Ogilvy & Mather PR.
“I always wanted to be with the consumer girls, because they had the Bulgari perfume and Ray Ban sunshades, and I thought their life was so glamorous and fun,” she said. “But as I got older, I much preferred and appreciated being in corporate and financial services public relations.”
She returned to Bermuda in 1998 to work for the Bank of Bermuda and then the Bermuda National Gallery.
She started Troncossi in 2000 and has had over 100 companies as clients including The Argus Group, the Hamilton Princess and Beach Club, and Guy Carpenter Bermuda. She still has clippings from some of her favourite articles she wrote for clients, including one in the Wall Street Journal and another in the Financial Times.
She’s been going through them while packing up her home at Belmont Hills. Her only hesitation about moving to London is leaving her friends.
“I know so many people here, through the Belmont community and through work,” she said. “Even when I am walking my dogs, a guy at the golf course always says: ‘Good morning, Liz’. I won’t get that in Kensington Gardens. I will miss that.”
After her course finishes at the end of the year, she plans to spend several months exploring Europe. “What happens next, I don’t know,” she said.