I joined the J Lyons & Co group at the age of 16 in 1964 at Meads Top Deck restaurant & cafeteria - now the Ircus Tavern - in Purfleet, Essex, in the post of assistant cook. After about a year I was asked if I would like to train for management in London, and I accepted.
I transferred to the Oxford Corner House where I started my training. Our training officer was Miss Myrtle Peniakova. I was there until the building was closed. I was then transferred to the Strand Corner House where I continued my training.
In the Corner House I worked in almost all of the restaurants, starting in the basement and The Showboat / brasserie. Ground floor was the Trafalgar Room Wimpy bar; Monk's Tavern where shop manager at one time was Mr. George Waller. On the first floor we had the Grill & Cheese, Trident and The Carving Room - at 11 shillings and sixpence per head (57.5p) - the manager Mr. Bernard Causton was up on the second floor where the Hamilton room and the 'Egg and Bacon' were located. Later it was changed to a casino but it seems a license could not be obtained. While based at the Strand Corner House we were given out-door catering jobs. I worked at Buckingham Palace garden parties 12 times under the watchful eye of Mr. Louis Avery. I was introduced to Her Majesty the Queen by Sir Norman Joseph. I also worked at St James Palace, and Lingfield Park races in the presence of the late Queen Mother. My cocktail bar training took place at the Belvedere Restaurant in Holland Park. Prince Charles was in for dinner while I was working. My main bar training took place at the Throgmorton Restaurant.
I remember one afternoon spent doing nothing else but opening bottles of champagne from large tin baths hidden under the buffet.
At my own wedding the cake was bought from Lyons. It was a three tier traditional style and with my staff discount cost me £4.00. It was delivered after my marriage. I moved back to Essex and took a post as Assistant Manager for the Lion & Lamb hotel in Brentwood which was part of the Robley Group. I left the company in 1971 with many happy memories and a vast amount of experience in work and life.