Chef taking on new challenge

Face to Face with Holt chef Paul Abendroth who, since being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease five months ago, has embarked on a fundraising mission to help others with the same condition.

Face to Face with Holt chef Paul Abendroth who, since being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease five months ago, has embarked on a fundraising mission to help others with the same condition.

With a mother who was a school cook and a father who was a chef in the army catering corps, food runs in the family for Norfolk-born Paul.

After completing a two-year catering course at City College, Norwich, he quickly worked his way up from commis chef to restaurant manager at a Dereham hotel, where he also met future wife Pat, who was then a waitress.


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Keen to further his career, Paul took a job as head chef at the four-star Barnham Broom Hotel, Honingham, where, during breaks, he had a chance to hone his skills on the golf course.

Spells as head chef at hotels at Wymondham and Essex were followed by a return to Barnham Broom, where Paul again took the job of head chef while Pat was made restaurant manageress.

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After daughter Rachel and son Luke were born, Paul and Pat moved to Hingham and, after a stint as head chef at a small, family-run hotel, Paul was made second chef at Gresham's School, Holt, where he spent the following seven years serving up 1500 meals a day to pupils.

He was then taken on as a trouble-shooter by an independent school in Essex, but, after a gruelling 18 months of commuting, he returned to work in north Norfolk as assistant manager of the Manor Hotel, Mundesley.

A fan of Byford's restaurant at Holt, Paul wrote to owner Iain Wilson, who, within hours of receiving his letter, had offered him a job.

Since 2004, Paul, now 53, has run the pasty and pastry side of the business, Pat is delicatessen manager, son Luke is assistant deli manager and, in her spare time, daughter Rachel helps with outside catering jobs.

The close-knit family was dealt a devastating blow when, in October of last year, Paul was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. But, inspired by the meeting others with the condition, and by reading about celebrity sufferers including boxing legend Muhammed Ali and actor Michael J Fox, Paul decided to organise a series of fundraising events.

"It would be so easy to just give up, but they are getting very close to finding a cure for Parkinson's and I think that the more money we can raise, the better chance we've got," he said.

Paul, who, while captain of the Links golf club, raised �2,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, held a golf day at the West Runton hotel two weeks ago.

The event raised �708 for support and research charity Parkinson's UK and, as well as organising a return challenge and a family fun night later in the year, Paul has enlisted the help of Luke and Rachel, who have decided to embark on a 2-day, 50-mile walk.

The siblings will be setting off from the Assembly House, Norwich on June 26 and, accompanied on various stages of their challenge by around 50 friends and family members, plan to trek over the Weavers Way to Alby before making their way to the Pigs pub at Edgefield and finishing up at Byfords.

To sponsor Rachel and Luke, who hope to raise �2,000 for Parkinson's UK, visit www.justgiving/50miles4p

What is the best thing about your job?

I've always been passionate about cooking - I've never done anything else, but the best thing is getting it right.

And the worst?

The unsociable hours.

What's your favourite Norfolk building?

I went to Sandringham with my daughter for the first time last year and I had never realised just how beautiful the building and the grounds are.

What is the one thing you would change about yourself?

One of the things about Parkinson's is that you do tend to switch off and go into your own world, so I'd like to be able to listen and communicate a bit more. Anxiety is also a big issue, but part of coping with that is just being aware of it.

And the one thing you would change about north Norfolk?

More parking in Holt, so it was easier for people to come to Byfords and eat my pasties!

Who or what is the love of your life?

My wife - she always been there for me and she's one of the best.

What has been your proudest moment?

It would have to either be my wedding day or the birth of my children.

And your greatest achievement?

Winning the top award for best student in patisserie at City College.

Whom do you most admire?

Stevie Wonder. I saw him in concert and he was amazing. I think what he has achieved in life, in spite of being blind, is inspiring.

Have you ever done anything outrageous?

Well, Pat is a Brown Owl and I have been a dame in four Brownie pantomimes, and in a production of Sinbad the Sailor by Cley Amateur Dramatic Society.

Favourite book, film and TV programme?

I'm not much of a reader, but I did recently enjoy Bruce Forsyth's autobiography. My favourite film has to be Disney's the Jungle Book, and I absolutely loved the TV series Just Good Friends.

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who lived life to the full.

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