A young entrepreneur schooled by the North East’s most celebrated chef is cooking up his own business venture serving his take on an American classic to tickle the Geordie palate.
Jamie Pagett, 28, has drawn on his experience of a decade working in top restaurants and time spent living in the USA to prepare mac ‘n’ cheese to hungry shoppers from a pop-up stall on Newcastle’s Quayside market every Sunday.
Jamie is learning and refining his culinary skills under the tutelage of renowned North East chef and restaurateur Terry Laybourne.
As chef de partie at Mr Laybourne’s Porterhouse Butcher and Grill and Saltwater Fish Company in Fenwick’s Food Hall, Jamie is a valued member of the kitchen team with a reputation for top notch cuisine.
He’s now employing those skills to put his own twist on the iconic US dish of macaroni cheese – a perennial favourite across American society from President Thomas Jefferson in the 19th Century to modern-day commuters grabbing a tasty and quick lunch.
Jamie, of Wideopen, has tapped a niche in the street food market scene to trade as the only North East pop-up devoted to serving mac ‘n’ cheese.
‘Redheads Mac ‘N’ Cheese’ – a nod to Jamie’s flame-coloured hair – is gaining a growing following on social media taken by its unique interpretation of the classic dish.
Chorizo, pork scratchings, barbecued beef, Parmesan and a host of other toppings prepared by Jamie take the traditional meal to a whole new level.
“I lived in California as a child, did the whole American yellow bus thing to school and when I was out there I got a real taste for mac ‘n’ cheese which everybody loves,” said Jamie.
“That’s where I got my idea for the business, I knew that people in the North East would love mac ‘n’ cheese the way the Americans do.
“The beauty of mac ‘n’ cheese is that it goes so well with so many other ingredients and the feedback I’m getting from the public is that they love the opportunity to taste a little bit of New York city on the banks of the Tyne.”
Jamie spends six hours every Saturday preparing ingredients for his eight-hour Sunday shift serving hungry customers at the ever-popular Sunday market.
He recognises the part Mr Laybourne and Porterhouse head chef Chris Eagle have played in helping him start his own business. Jamie continues to work for them four days per week while pursuing his business venture with the ultimate aim of opening his own mac ‘n’ cheese café in Newcastle.
“They’ve been really good with me, accommodating me and understanding my idea,” said Jamie. “I’ve taken a lot of skills from working with them.
“I know I’m learning from the best chefs in the North East and if I can take just one per cent of what I’ve learned from them and apply it to my business, then I know I’ve got a good chance of making it a success.”