A FORMER student from Stratford College has taken her culinary skills and run off to the circus.
Tara Hopper always loved cooking but didn’t think it was a viable career option as she had not gone to culinary school.
This all changed when she enrolled onto a chef apprenticeship course at the college when she was 26. Tara went on to work at MOR Bakery as head chef and Nancy’s Kitchen, before she saw the advertisement for Circus Chef at Giffords Circus and realised it was the chance of a lifetime.
She found her interview for chef at their travelling restaurant, Circus Sauce, a “surreal experience”.
She said: “Getting a tour around the barn with the practise ring, seeing all the wagons in the workshop for maintenance and touch ups – and to be honest, it didn’t even occur to me the gravity of this place, and the fact it was going to be my future workplace.”
Tara continued: “I have always been a fan of the circus in general, from first seeing a Chinese Circus when I was a kid, and I think it came as no surprise to my parents and friends when I informed them I had been offered the position of Head Chef of Circus Sauce and would be touring with them for the best part of a year.”
The restaurant can seat 72 and travels round the country with the circus – getting taken down and put up at every new ground.
Circus Sauce is a fine dining restaurant in a tent. Tara has found the adjustment from her previous work at MOR bakery interesting, as though the hours are typical for that in hospitality, the taking up and packing down everything, coupled with moving every one to two weeks, makes the job unique.
Tara added: “It’s definitely been a big life adjustment, working and living in the same place, that isn’t always the same place. I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been a struggle at times, but I think this year it’s been an important chance to challenge myself and look towards my future and the path I want to take in furthering my career.
“I have been able to experience some amazing food around the country and I have made some wonderful friends. I have a great team around me, who are always keen to get out and explore the new grounds, go foraging for ingredients we can use in our food and equally help pick you up when you inevitably have a bad day.
“Living and working with the circus has become a little community, where we each have our roles to play in making this whole operation tick over smoothly.”
Food and Beverages Manager for Giffords Circus, Greg Knight, is pleased to have Tara on the team.
He said: “From the moment myself and Ols Halas, the Executive chef, met Tara, we knew she was the right fit for our team. Her enthusiasm for the role and her knowledge has made a huge difference to the team, especially with her organisational skills and dedication to the role as head chef.