Soul Chef Catering at The Astor Theatre, Deal

Deal Delivers

Deal's local businesses go digital with Deal Delivers

Since the UK Government first introduced restrictions on how businesses could operate in England as part of its management of the Covid-19 pandemic, local businesses from across Deal in Kent have been working hard to facilitate a delivery service of products and services to their clients in the local area. “Deal Delivers” - an online catalogue of independent shops continuing to offer their services and products throughout lockdown - was the brainchild of Calypso Rose, previously ITV’s Young Businessperson of the Year.

Under the banner of the Deal Delivers platform, Deal businesses including those in the hospitality industry such as food and drink producers, caterers and culinary tutors; artists; craftspeople and wellbeing practitioners have found innovative and inspirational ways of reaching their customers throughout the challenges of the past twelve months.

Faye Smith, author of the Deal Delivers blog, met some of the individuals whose businesses have fuelled the initiative and found out about the secrets of their success.

  • Food For Thought with Dexter Thomas, Soul Chef Catering

    Dexter Thomas is the founder of Soul Chef Catering, based at the Astor Theatre in Deal.

    “I was born in Jamaica, the middle child of five, spending my childhood either playing or in the kitchen since I was 9. At 17, I left the Caribbean to come to London with my elder brother to live with my dad and study catering at Lewisham college for 3 years. I always knew becoming a chef was the only thing I wanted to do. After work experience as an apprentice chef in a hotel, my career included the Crown Plaza, Savoy, and working for Jamie Oliver. When I met my wife, who works front-of-house in restaurants, 8 years ago, she wanted a change from London so we moved to Deal to be near her family. I gave Deal a try and have ended up loving the place! Simon who owns Rees and Rees jewellery on the High Street kindly provided a place to stay while we looked for somewhere of our own. Meantime, I was away a lot freelancing around the UK and Europe from Wales to Norway. It’s a good job my wife understands the industry! Lockdown stopped me travelling. I started cooking from home initially, providing food for those who couldn’t go out, while my wife was cycling around delivering meals. I was making such a mess in our kitchen, my wife said, ‘I’m not doing this no more!’

    "The owner of Little Green Shop recommended I talk to James at the Astor Theatre about using his kitchen, but literally the day we met, the national lockdown was announced. When we opened, we got the word out about Soul Food through Deal Delivers, being one of the first few on their Facebook page. We’d leave our business cards in the delivery bags and our reputation spread: people were telling their neighbours and friends how much they enjoyed this new Soul Chef food and the business took off. The business grew so much, we have created two additional jobs: our driver who delivers our famous jerk food Friday to Sunday and my 16 year old weekend kitchen assistant.

    “I started with home-cooked meals like mushroom spaghetti or stir-fried chicken fusion, but it wasn’t Caribbean SOUL food! My mum always said “do what you are used to, what makes your heart sing and what you’re good at.” So, since lockdown eased, I started with one BBQ drum serving jerk pork for a fiver a box, and have bought two more since, to keep up with demand. I had more ideas and the Deal community was giving me feedback on the phone and reviews on Facebook asking for more.

    “Now I look after veggies, vegans and coeliacs with their own separate BBQ drum. People often don’t realise 90% of traditional Jamaican food is plant based like yam, corn and banana, because meat is so expensive for islanders.

    “What I love about Deal is how close-knit this community is and how they love and support local independents. I’ve never experienced this kind of thing anywhere else. That’s why the meat we buy is from Goodchild’s butchers in Walmer, our fish from Jenkins and our fruit and veg from Bartlett and White.”

    Dexter is at The Astor for lunch Friday-Saturday 12-3pm and dinner 5-9pm; Thursday 3-7pm; Sunday lunch and dinner 12.30-8pm.

    To order a pick-up or delivery, call or text the Soul Food mobile on 07871 176466, or message through Facebook or Instagram.

    Are you a cook?

    No - I’m a chef who loves cooking! Every dish I put on a plate has soul and love in it; if I’m not happy with it, it won’t leave my kitchen. Everything we do in Soul Chef is done out of passion.

    Any cooking tips?

    If you’re going to do a dinner, don’t rush it: whatever you put in, you’ll get out. And don’t be afraid of experimenting- you’ve got to believe in yourself in the kitchen.

    What’s your favourite dish?

    It’s not even Jamaican, but currently I am in love with jerk venison loin with a juniper berry jus, dauphinoise potato and tender stem broccoli. It’s going to be on our winter menu.

    And a drink to go with it?

    A nice bottle of red. Or a rum punch we can deliver along with our food if I’m feeling more Jamaican! I sent my friend Karl from Cocktail In A Bottle the recipe for my rum punch and he has created his own version: delicious!

    Your favourite restaurant in the Deal area?

    Easily The Lane’s burgers, which are amazing. I can recommend my favourite: chicken burger. The chicken is friend in buttermilk, served with lettuce, pickles and their own tomato sauce. Warning- they are so big, you certainly don’t feel hungry for a long time after!

    And pub?

    I can see the Bohemian from my lounge window and love sitting outside in their gardens with a nice pint of Blonde Whitstable Bay ale.

    What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had?

    I had a terrible Indian curry a while ago I can still taste, just recalling it. Say no more.

    And the best?

    In Thailand travelling on holiday with my wife. I like spice, I was raised on spice all my life, so a stand-out meal was fried fish coated in lime, chilli, lemongrass in a soup, those flavours were all so amazing together.

    Your favourite TV cook?

    Without a doubt, Gordon Ramsay. He’s real and even if you don’t like what he says, he says it anyway. In any kitchen, you need to be able to stand your ground and say it how it is.

    What do you think of Deal as a place to eat out?

    I absolutely love Deal! Even if you are not from around here, perhaps just down for the day, there is so much choice of places to eat… even since I moved down 18 months ago, we are seeing so much more interest in food, like the new Turkish place alongside a more traditional style of cooking and restaurants which are still producing really good food.

  • Food For Thought with Karl Wozny, Cocktail in a Bottle

    “I was born in Kent on the Isle of Sheppey and moved to London to be trained as an actor initially at drama school. When I graduated in ‘95, I worked in theatre for five years until setting up my own theatre company, Bigfoot Arts Education to help school children learn in a creative way. I came across the delights of Deal when I visited Guy Scantlebury who ran our Kent Division in the town. That coincided with me becoming a dad, so for us it was a no-brainer to come to Deal. We loved the whole essence of the place- a proper community feel we wanted to be part of.

    "I have always been passionate about food and drink and I wanted to get to know my new community, so I set up a pop-up restaurant called The Burger Brothers within the Deal Hoy, run by Ian Goodban, then out of The Clarendon Hotel for five years. It was at that restaurant on the seafront where I discovered a passion for making cocktails. When I sold the business in 2018, I decided to start a small business to keep my hand in on the cocktail front, beside running Bigfoot. I started making cocktails for restaurants, allowing them to sell quality drinks to their customers quickly and consistently with no wastage.

    "When lockdown happened, the bars I was supplying all shut, so I thought I would try to sell my cocktails direct to the consumer. As soon as Calypso had the foresight to create the Deal Delivers platform to help local small businesses thrive during these troubled times, it showcased what we were doing and created the vital link from producer to consumer. My own business- like many others- sprang up out of necessity to provide a product in scarce supply whilst championing local business.

    "Like opening my restaurant and running my cocktail-making masterclasses, founding Cocktail in a Bottle has brought me closer to the Deal community. I enjoy providing something no one else IS offering. My cocktails are just like you’d get in a bar made by a professional bartender: high quality with a generous ABV 5-10% more than average :-) It's important to be generous I think - like when you’re watching a cook add a bit more of the best ingredients to a recipe. My cocktails aren’t the cheapest, but they offer good value for money considering the ingredients I use.

    "Old customers stayed true and came back to me throughout lockdown and I have loved getting to know new ones too as I hop on my bike or drive to deliver my drinks all round Deal. I like to talk to people when I drop off their cocktails and discuss how to get the best out of the experience from my drinks… It always makes a difference when you know someone who enjoys what they do. Maybe that’s why we are proud to be up for Kent Life magazine’s food and drink awards currently, where we are shortlisted for best drinks delivery service. If I win, I see it as being good for Deal, a way to showcase the local area as it was my customers who voted for me. It was also nice to see a further three Deal-based businesses be shortlisted.

    "I’m constantly reinventing and creating seasonal recipe drinks for my local online shop, showcasing and testing new cocktails - like my bananas foster hot buttered rum, which I made for Bonfire Night. I make these special releases for the local shop where they are often cheaper than my main national shop. We are in the process of rebranding with the brilliant local illustrator Squidoodle. It’s slow organic growth for me. Basically, I enjoy making cocktails and meeting people: if I could speak to everybody who brought a cocktail, I would."

    Contact Karl via the listing, which leads directly to his local shop on the Open Food Network platform or message him through Facebook or Instagram. You can even order just one cocktail for a tenner.

    Karl sends his cocktails as gifts nationally and has launched a subscription service called Karl’s Cocktail Club. Karl is also making smaller 200ml cocktails in a bottle ideal for hampers. Details about The Club are on Prices start from £19.95 to subscribe monthly.

    Are you a cook?

    Yes! I just love cooking and eating food made from scratch. Because I’ve done a lot of travelling and eaten so many different cuisines, I have developed a varied palate.

    Any cooking tips?

    It's simple but for the best scrambled eggs, just use butter (no milk, no seasoning) and cook really slowly. Be prepared to take them off and put back on the heat so the eggs are perfectly cooked, then season on top once plated. Oh and buy local! I get all my meat from the Black Pig in St George’s Passage. I have gone there since they supplied Burger Brothers and I think Lizzy is the best butcher in the South of England! And for fish you can’t beat Jenkins on the High Street - we are spoilt in Deal!

    What’s your favourite dish?

    Well-aged rib eye steak with triple cooked chips, Bearnaise sauce and crispy salad. I’ll have prunes in Armagnac with thick clotted cream for desert, thanks: delicious.

    And a drink to go with it?

    I would always start with a Negroni before a meal to get the gastric juices flowing. If I’m eating the meal above, it would be a really good Armagnac to finish, like I enjoy in Frog & Scot on the High Street.

    Your favourite restaurant in the Deal area?

    For a small place, Deal has some really nice restaurants, but for a special night out, it has to be Frog and Scot. What a great bistro, I go there as often as I can. I have watched Benoit and Sarah’s journey from first opening to the great heights this fantastic restaurant has achieved. I would also recommend the Rose opposite who have some very good chefs. I’ve always been impressed with Scottie & Susie from The Dining Club: they've always been there, a stalwart in the community for excellent food. For authentic cuisine, we have Dexter's Jamaican food which is out of this world, and a little Sicilian trattoria next door which is as authentic as it comes.

    And pub?

    My local is The Taphouse. Joe and Charis are the face of the business whilst owner John makes delicious pizzas out the back. What tremendous, lovely young people they are. They know how to give great service, such an important part of hospitality, and keep me going back. I'd also like to mention the sad loss of Daryl (also known as Chaffy). He was the face of many restaurants and pubs in Deal, recently the Boho and Gaiety bar. He was such a gent, and whilst I never really got to know him personally, we'd always stop for a chat. As generous as they come, he will be missed.

    What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had?

    I do have high expectations of eating out. I always think it has to be better than something you do yourself at home. I know how hard it is to run a restaurant, so I'm not going to name names. As you get older, you know what you like and I always travel to places I really want to eat at, so I rarely ever have a bad meal. I know all the places that work for me and my family and I'll avoid the ones that I know don't cut the mustard, so to speak.

    And the best?

    Whenever I travel, I really immerse myself into the cuisine of the places I go to, so in a sense I am always having the best meal of my life. I guess the most memorable meal would be in an old family run restaurant called La Tupina in Bordeaux, where they cook amazing produce over an open fire. I had sensational cep mushrooms cooked in Cognac with a Chateaubriand. Although the seasonal ceps picked locally by a Deal forager at Frog and Scot last week reminded me of those quality mushrooms, they were cooked so brilliantly. A real joy to eat.

    Your favourite TV cook?

    Chef’s Table on Netflix is a show which showcase talented chefs from all over the world. they are shot in such an amazing way, these documentaries take you into the heart and mind of incredible chefs, revealing what makes them tick. I don’t think people realise how much passion and energy goes into making a good restaurant happen, most of the time for not much money. This programme shows food as art, focusing on heritage, culture, regionality and fresh produce- I urge everyone to watch it. As for personalities, I have an old fondness for Keith Floyd and the Two Fat Ladies. I was young when I watched them, and they really helped me develop a love for food and travel.

    What do you think of Deal as a place to eat out?

    Wonderful. You can have quality bistro food at Frog & Scot, some spicy jerk chicken from Soul Food Chef Dexter in The Astor Theatre kitchen or the best fish and chips at the Fryer Tuck on College Road, run by really nice people. My wife works for the NHS and Fryer Tuck gave workers discounts during lockdown, a lovely touch. Our pubs also offer good food, like The Taphouse and Deal Hoy for their pizzas. And The Deal Pier Kitchen has become a destination place to visit and eat… you can blow out the cobwebs afterwards with a lovely walk along the beach.

  • Stephanie Hayman, Chequers Kitchen Cookery School

    Chequers Kitchen Cookery School, located between Deal and Sandwich, was created and is led by head chef, Pieter Van Zyl, and social entrepreneur, Stephanie Hayman.

    “I grew up in Deal and went to university in London, where I stayed for 20 years, coming back when my son was small,” remembers Stephanie. “I got into the social enterprise arena when my son was nine and being fed appalling school dinners full of hydrogenated fats. This was 2005, pre- Jamie Oliver’s campaign and having challenged the unhelpful food provider, I set up a social enterprise ‘Whole School Meals CIC’ with a group of others which provided healthy nutritious meals. I am still Chair and director, but the non-profit is now owned by the original 25 schools in East Kent.

    “An offshoot of the CIC was teaching kids to cook, but we realised many of their parents didn’t have the skills or knowledge to feed them well at home either. So, we put in a bid to The Big Lottery to teach adults on low incomes and other disadvantaged groups. The bid was successful, but where would we do the training? I knew Pieter was running The Chequers at Sandwich Bay as a pub restaurant, busy during his long weekends, but with days in the week when he wasn’t running the restaurant. We shared food values, I could see he had teaching skills, so I asked if he would train groups of six on camping stoves on his restaurant tables while the grant lasted. When that initial money ran out, we decided to create our own social enterprise and the Cinq Ports Community Kitchen was born. It took the whole of 2014 to raise the finance. We shut for three months, did the building work and have run a hybrid cookery school ever since.

    “Our grant-funded social enterprise work is still at the heart of our model, teaching people to cook from scratch on a budget. In our classes we see local people on low incomes; groups sent by the mental health charity Mind; as well as the Stroke Association and the charity Porchlight. We help people improve their diets or employment prospects: teenagers, young people in care, stroke survivors, those with mental health difficulties, unemployed people who want to break into the catering industry, all come through our doors, or on Zoom in lockdown!

    “This work is reliant on grants, however, so we needed to diversify our income and develop a commercial side. The Saturday morning recreational cookery classes and teambuilding for local businesses of 6-36 staff were born.

    “Pieter is the heart of our business and we have a productive division of labour. We first met when I used to chat while I ate at The Chequers Inn. Pieter teaches our classes alongside our Thai and Malaysian specialists, and tutors on our social enterprise side, like our retired food tech teachers.

    “This hybrid model backed by the three-year Lottery grant has ensured our survival. When Covid arrived, we were able to switch the grant funding to subsidise our crucial meal delivery service. From our school windows we can see mainly elderly people on the permanent parked estate opposite us- so, concerned for their wellbeing under the first lockdown, we pushed 34 notes through the door offering delivered meals. Pieter used to run the restaurant and airline catering at Manston airport, so we knew he had experience of cooking quantities of packaged food which could be reheated. He cooked in the morning and our kind volunteers (who normally help with the washing and weighing for our community classes), delivered in the afternoon. After the first two weeks, we knew we could help more people, so we spoke to the council and enlarged the service to elderly, housebound and vulnerable people in Deal and Sandwich via social media. We only thought we would be delivering for two or three weeks. That turned into months and our subsidised £4 main and dessert meals on wheels continued until the end of March.

    “We have more recreational cookery classes planned for when restrictions lift and if you are struggling with what to get your favourite foodies or hard to buy for folk, a Chequers Cookery School voucher (available through our website makes a fabulous gift and is valid for at least 18 months.

    "And do connect with us on social media, call us or simply drop in during opening times when lockdown ends!”

    Stephanie’s Favourite Things

    The sea

    I learnt to swim in the sea at Deal and feel very lucky to have been taught properly by the Royal Marines at their swimming pool by what is now The Cedars surgery. I think it was through the Brownies, we had our very own Royal Marine teach us for a few weeks. The sea is so wonderful to look at, different every single day. I love swimming in the sea, more often in the summer I must confess!

    Deal Beach Parlour

    I love this place so much I have to ration myself! The Beach Parlour has hardly ever changed just like it was when I was a kid popping in for a knickerbocker glory! You’ll often find me munching on a cheese and tomato toastie and on special occasions, I admit to following up with a banana split.

    Special walks

    For me, the walk from Walmer across Hawksdown chalk downland fields to Kingsdown is very special with its wonderful views over the cliffs. The walk from Chequers to Sandwich Bay round the golf course through the bird reserve has its own smell, views and climate: special and unique.

    High Street

    I love the variety of our High Street with its mixture of chains and independents nestling side by side. All the hustle and bustle at the weekend in summer, but I even find it lovely when it’s bleak, wet and deserted in winter. I head to Peppers whether for exotic foodstuffs that I have no clue what to do with, but find out online, or to make up a hamper for family I couldn’t see in lockdown. I’ll often put my head round the door and ask for suggestions at Deal bookshop, which has such an excellent range of diverse titles. Then drop into Penny Brearman’s Seaview art gallery on Broad Street, opposite the library. I have several pieces of her local scenes work, which is bright, vibrant, full of life and colour. The gallery also shows Elizabeth Sefton’s wonderful local photography.

    Deal is such a friendly place. We are a mix of different communities, but everyone rubs along together very well.

    Hayman’s Kitchen

    This tiny restaurant on the Dover Road in Upper Walmer does a magnificent pizza. It’s open Thursday to Saturday for takeout and when people can sit in, has four tables which are literally in the front room of the house! My favourite is pickled walnut and three cheese topping.


    This place is so special. Coming to the Chequers Inn with my family after a swim was always a treat as a child. It’s fabulous to be working here and spending my days doing such valuable work in this lovely location.

  • Jo Holmes of Take A Seat at The Village artisan community market

    Jo describes herself as a BFL - Back From Londoner! She worked in the public sector, predominantly as commissioner in the NHS, then headed innovation for Age UK National before redundancy saw her head back to Deal and spend the summer questioning what she wanted to do next, having given 35 years in public service. It was Jo’s aunt who inspired her to consider upholstery.

    “I bought a couple of chairs- I’ve always been a bit of magpie- and went to upholstery classes, initially locally, then at Faversham Upholstery School. Starting a stall at The Village market seemed a bit early, but I felt I had to jump in at the deep end and it’s gone really well.

    “I also started selling fusion mineral paint last year. During lockdown, fusion mineral paint was in such huge demand - as people turned to upcycling home projects that they had never got around to - that supplies ran out across the country, so my doorstep delivery was warmly welcomed by many! We also faced a national foam shortage, because foam is a by-product from fuel. As fuel consumption decreased, those by-products were not available to manufacturers, so prices increased 20%. Fortunately, I also use a rubberised coir-mix coconut fibre or the traditional horsehair upholstery which has been around since the 1920s. It lasts much longer than foam and is a much more eco-friendly product.”

    Local artisans solve present problems with doorstep delivery

    Like all non-essential retailers, The Village artisan community market (Sondes Road, Deal - opposite The Courtyard bar/restaurant) had to close in November for the second national lockdown. This lockdown fell during the prime Christmas shopping period. Jo Holmes of Take A Seat Upholstery was determined to support her fellow Village stallholders by bringing their collective offerings to a social media screen instead.

    “The Village, a kind of craft traders’ collective, was the idea of Neil from Don’t Walk Walk Gallery and Vince from The Courtyard bar restaurant. Some of us had businesses already, trekking round loads of different craft fairs, but with no point of sale. And our own Deal market proved impossible to get into because it was so successful, stall space was limited. Originally The Village was a warehouse for Courts Furniture Shop, then an antiques warehouse, dark and gloomy. It was transformed by a lick of paint and Vince and Neil’s vision to create and extend an artisan hub around South Street and Sondes Road, giving local makers the undercover opportunity of an indoor market. People say The Village has all the hustle of a market with a laid-back vibe and very warm welcome. Stallholders are so open and chatty, we have customers who make a point of coming in every week for particular gifts or to get help creating unique interiors for their individual homes."

    The Village is also home to the likes of Mrs McKenzie’s award-winning marmalades, jams and chutneys, PedaalDuwer’s vintage bike auction sales and hire, LJ Artisan, the Celtic jeweller (otherwise known as the wire maiden!) and Hella Bella vintage clothing.

    “We had been going for around 18 months with a wide range of self-employed local independent traders and craftspeople bringing their wares to the lovely people of Deal and the town’s visitors. On a normal market day, you would find gifts galore and masses of unique items to decorate your home from linocut prints by Jenny Preston to Fiona Bradshaw’s lamps created from salvaged objects. Barrels and Bespoak make rustic oak creations from old whiskey barrels for personalised interior and exterior furnishings and my own business - Take A Seat - where people love my funky cushions and weekly chair clinic. Aside from larger commissions, I take in small ‘poorly’ chairs for same day turnround. Whether you are a local wanting some beautiful fabric for your dining chairs, a student doing your homework on grandad’s precious old tattered chair or a holiday home owner needing a stained chair recovering, I can help.

    “During the first lockdown, a lot of our Village stall holders joined Deal Delivers. It made a big difference, not just to local people who wanted to access our products, but to us as self-employed stall holders for whom selling our wares at The Village was our main source of income. When we lost face to face contact with our customers, we could have lost our businesses. Plus in a double blow, many of us took that leap of faith to go it alone when The Village opened back in April 2019, so we were excluded from the Government self-employment grant and local authority business grants and had to rely on Universal Credit.

    “In the last lockdown, a few of us worked with Love Local and found the Deal Delivers Facebook page a god-send with its free access and ability to post your own updates. Now the more tech-savvy amongst us have set up The Village Market Instagram and Facebook feeds, where we are offering all our wonderful local products for sale with FREE doorstep delivery to Deal and the surrounding areas.

    “For me, being on Deal Delivers has been fantastic. The page has offered a single point of access enabling local people to easily go to one place and know they are supporting local businesses. Deal Delivers has a much wider audience than The Village has. People get fed up of adverts streaming at them from multiple channels, but if they have a single channel, people will take time to consider what they want and enjoy an easy way to get those things.

    “People are still learning about The Village, mainly online and in the press, but we do have our A boards on the pavements. Us traders are a local lot who love to support charities like the RNLI with prizes for their Christmas raffle last year, and for The Astor Theatre raffle. PedaalDuwer has also been actively supporting and leading community initiatives for meetups, friendship and support and of course, bike rides!

    “All stallholders have different pressures but are working together to offer people a way to access goods and gifts in as safe a way as possible. We have done a lot of work to make the market Covid compliant and customer numbers grew as confidence grew. We really benefited from day trippers, weekenders and those on staycations; we want to continue to give people options for individual and personalised gifts you can’t buy on Amazon, made by real people locally.”

    Jo Holmes 07720 724905

    Find The Village via Instagram or Facebook -

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  • Food For Thought with Jill Martin of Town Kitchen

    Jill Martin is proprietor of Town Kitchen at Deal Saturday Market.

    “I was adopted at 5 weeks old for 60p in Deal Town Hall. In 2012, I managed to track down both my birth mum and dad who married 9 months after my adoption and had 59 happy years together. My dad was 86 when I found him and I feel lucky to have had five precious years with him. And I had wonderful adoptive parents, I’m so lucky.

    "My first job was in Cox the Chemist then Deal Marks and Spencer’s aged 16. I moved away to London in the Swinging 60s, working in retail in Knightsbridge, serving the likes of Dusty Springfield before I married my wonderful husband Geoff and came back to Deal 1991. I now have three grown children and five grandchildren.

    "After a stint back at M&S in Dover, a friend suggested I apply for an office job at P & O Ferries. Nervous, I had the interview and ended up staying for 15 years, before becoming a coach and sales trainer in a call centre.

    "None of this really used my creative side, however. I remember even at school my butterfly cupcakes were sought after! Retiring was a big step as I’m not a great one for sitting around or reading. We have always been foodies in my family, including my son and daughter. Our Sunday lunches were uplifting places for stories, laughter and family fun where food put smiles on our faces.

    "Sometimes I’d be sitting having wonderful meals at home thinking why can’t I go out and get food like this? Then came the idea: home-cooked takeaways to share my lovely food with all the local people around me. I got fed up prevaricating and got stuck in. My motto is never give up, you’ve nothing to lose. I started a stall at Deal’s Friday market, now I’m at Deal’s buzzing Saturday market. With its diverse range of talented stallholders, it’s the thriving hub of the community. Although I am in my kitchen all week, I have made so many friends through food. Food brings people together. Everyone I know seems to come to the market!

    "I soon out-grew my small kitchen so we built Town Kitchen 2 in our garden, a kitchen and social area which seats six. From this grew our Ladies at Lunch events which sell out in minutes, with inspiring guest speakers like Sarah Green at the Holistic Shed and Linda Ford, the inspirational creator of Sandown Castle Community Garden

    "Two standout moments on my food journey were back in 2016, when someone copied me in on social media that couples’ Come Dine With Me was coming to the Deal area. I emailed my interest and mentioned it to my husband Geoff when he came home from work. His first words were: ‘I’m not doing that!’ Fortunately, after the test shoot, Geoff warmed to the idea. The producers liked us and wanted us on show, which was incredible fun and very long hours. We are still friends with our joint winners from Margate.

    This started other TV opportunities like How to Spend it Well at Christmas last year.

    My other highlight came also last year in 2019. I had decided Kent as the Garden of England should have its own iconic pastie and became determined to create one.

    I discovered there had been five Kent coalfields and knew my father in law had worked at Betteshanger, so the ‘Kentish Knocker’ was born with interesting and unusual fillings. When I discovered The Eden Project held the Pastie World Championship competition, I entered last year and to my amazement won third place. I was busy hugging people when I heard the ‘Betteshanger Big Breakfast’ called and realised my pastie had also come first! I was literally bouncing with happiness at winning this ‘Food Oscar’ and haven’t looked back.

    Kent now has its own world champion pastie and it’s my dream to have Kentish Knocker pasty shops all over my wonderful county.”

    To find Town Kitchen’s range, check out their Facebook page for food ingredients and videos, or Instagram and Twitter. You can also find Jill at Deal Saturday market, weather permitting, 9am to 2pm.

    Town Kitchen food is delivered free locally or collect from 17 The Grove by the London Road service station. Jill recommends calling orders in on 07816 231086 or email

    Are you a cook?

    Yes! I’m a truly passionate cook with a feel for food. I love to cook to music to create an atmosphere of fun Town Kitchen magic, roasting and grinding my own spices to create recipes from around world.

    Any cooking tips?

    Lots. It’s a bit cheesy, but plan and prepare for success- if you’re following a recipe, let it just be a guideline, be prepared to personalise it. And use sharp knives for chopping. Cook to the seasons, using seasonal produce and shop locally. And please let’s teach our children to cook and eat healthily.

    What’s your favourite dish?

    I cook from around the world, but have a real passion for Indian spices, such medicinal properties and taste amazing. I am torn between Town Kitchen’s irresistible Indian shepherd’s pie, or tikka massala with pomegranate or Sri Lankan slow cooked beef. I also love my Brexit balls- Belgian meatballs with apple and pear puree sauce, which puts a smile on faces while tasting delicious.

    And a drink to go with it?

    With curries I love Gewurztraminer wine or a Tiger beer, or a grenache, pinot gris, or semillion sauvignon blanc with my Thai green curry.

    Your favourite restaurant in the Deal area?

    I’m so busy cooking, I don’t have much time to go out, but when I do I love Middle Street fish n chips with their little restaurant at back, it’s consistently good value and a you can take your chips with a nice glass of wine to the sea front on a hot afternoon. Some of the best food and wine can be found on the fab stalls at Deal’s buzzing Saturday market with produce you can’t find elsewhere. Visitors come from all over the world, it’s amazing.

    And pub?

    Again, it’s hard to find time, but I do love a Summer lunch with friends at the Bohemian. It has a great location with a West-facing cosy garden, a good choice of food and wine and tasteful décor.

    I also rate The Hoy, tucked away in Duke Street with a lovely pizza oven.

    Our good friend Graham has The King’s Head on the front, what I call a proper pub with great food and atmosphere, outside entertainment and marvellous flowers in summer. In winter, his lights are the star of the show, a real hub and outstanding draw to town.

    What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had?

    The biggest disappointment was a celebrity chef restaurant we booked a year in advance for our anniversary. The service was appalling, they didn’t even offer to take our coats before the two of us were seated on a table for eight! The red wine was not at the right temperature and the bill was astronomical. I don’t mind paying, but at that level the experience has to be tip top.

    And the best?

    Le Manoir au Quat’Saisons. Raymond Blanc’s 5 course lunch was divine. Everything from the wonderful amuse bouche to the exquisite décor and dreamy gardens with breathtaking views and seemingly every herb in world we could spend hours in. It wasn’t overly stuffy or overpriced either.

    Your favourite TV cook?

    Oh there are so many I like. Ken Hom’s Thai meals are genius, Ainsley Harriott for his Caribbean dishes. Jamie Oliver is so relatable to many people needing quick and easy on a budget. Mary Berry is inspirational in her 80s. The Hairy Bikers make food fun and I love their travels which create ideas we can all share. Then there’s Rick Stein who once gave me his autograph at 5.30 am in Gatwick airport and the late great Keith Floyd for cooking un-fancy dishes with a glass of wine in hand- like me!

    What do you think of Deal as a place to eat out?

    It’s rapidly becoming real foodie town. Dining in is becoming the new dining out. With Deal Delivers, locals can now have a delicious home-cooked great value takeaway of amazing dishes, and your BYO bottle to share for a fiver! It’s important to treat ourselves and have something to look forward to.

    I think the pandemic brought out the best in our town, the real hidden gems of creative talent. Deal Delivers helped reach thousands of people; it was a lifesaver when so many thousands were stuck inside and something we should all be proud of.

  • Food For Thought with Sharon Cullen, Wellingtons Bar & Bistro

    Sharon Cullen is the owner of Wellingtons bistro and bar on Beach Street, launched on Valentine’s Day 2019.

    “I was born locally in Kingsdown and still live in central Deal in the heart of town. I have three children: my eldest is 23 and works at Wellies while she is finishing her final year at university. In fact, she is running our newest initiative, the meatballs side of the business. My middle child lives in Birmingham after graduating and my youngest is a horse-mad 10-year old.

    "I initially worked in marketing and as sales manager for a large food retailer before returning to education in my 40s to study for a degree and masters in sociology and social policy at the University of Kent. I was about to start my PhD when my mum became ill with lung cancer. I stopped my studies to spend the last few months with her while she slowly passed away over the following year. Mum’s impending death made me take a long hard look at my life and ask: ‘Was I happy?’ Would my anger at politics actually be enough to allow me to make the changes in children’s social mobility and access to quality education I had written my dissertation on? I was married to a chef and was reflecting on how much we had both loved running our own catering business in the past, when the opportunity to buy Wellingtons came up. I remembered how in the early days of our marriage we used to play ‘ready steady cook’ at home! We both loved cooking, watching cookery programmes for ideas and generally got excited about food.

    "Although I was divorced by then, my former husband was very supportive and helped me start making changes to elevate the original café image as a bit of a ‘greasy spoon’, to create the kind of place I knew Wellington’s could be. In the first few months, I got an alcohol license and spent six whole months- I kid you not- finding the perfect sausage! After all, I would have been foolish not to continue building on the wonderful reputation Wellington’s already had as a go-to breakfast café. So I focused on ensuring that- working in partnership with Rook’s Butchers and other suppliers, every item on our breakfast menu was of premium local ingredients. Me and the team had just got through our first year, introducing innovations like our popular tapas nights, when Covid hit.

    "Our ethos - particularly on good value - has very much been to look after locals first. I am most proud of growing our reputation for how wonderful the staff here are: incredibly attentive and polite. I truly believe in love and respect for both front of house and kitchen team. I earned my way through studying in later life by waitressing in restaurants and bars and have never forgotten the disgusting way I heard some chefs speaking to serving staff. I used to find myself thinking (prophetically?): ‘when I have my own restaurant, I certainly won’t be doing it like this!’ At Wellington’s, all our team have each other’s back, a supportive vibe which transmits to our diners. Happy staff very definitely equals happy customers here.

    "Meatballs are the latest innovation we have brought to Deal Delivers. Available Thursday to Monday to take away, or to be delivered to your door, customers can revel in delicate chicken and basil meatballs, gorgeous chili pork and sublime rustic beef. I know a recipe is working when I can’t stop eating! I got the idea when I saw a New York restaurant’s meatballs and as a working single parent, thought what a fantastic concept which would work as a healthy choice takeaway. We add our deliciously special salad with tenderstem broccoli and chargrilled peppers: it’s home cooking delivered to door.

    "We are amazed how well the meatball delivery service has gone, to be honest, and been touched by so much lovely feedback. 36 customers downloaded our Meatball Co app and ordered on the first day, which was fantastic, until we realised the app wasn’t regulating orders and the kitchen was initially becoming overwhelmed by the positive response. It’s sorted now thankfully, and we are also delivering cocktails, our Freak Shake ultimate milk shake or a freshly poured pint right to your door!"

    You can find Wellingtons Bistro & Bar at 27 Beach Street

    Open 9-2 Monday to Friday and at weekends from 9-3.

    Download the app for doorstep delivery and see

    Are you a cook?

    Not exactly, but I certainly enjoy having a go and I love to eat!

    Any cooking tips?

    Keep it simple- the best dishes are often the simplest (like our meatballs!). Oh, and to get great pork crackling, pour boiling water on the skin before you salt it.

    What’s your favourite dish?

    This is hard to say because I have eclectic tastes, but I’m truffle mad! I’ve been known to sneak truffle oil into my handbag when eating out with my family. They laughed when I put truffle mash on my takeaway menu, but it’s been really popular- along with our truffle fries and skin on fries. When I launch our spring burger menu, I shall surely have to include a Truffle burger!

    And a drink to go with it?

    Wine thanks: Sancerre if I’m feeling flush or a New Zealand sauvignon. My very favourite red is a Valopolicello Rapasso from the wine merchants on The Strand in Walmer: The Strand Wine Co.

    Your favourite restaurant in the Deal area?

    Has to be The Courtyard, Sondes Road in Deal. I love the décor, the food, the service, none of which is pretentious. I like to mix up my menu choices, but I recently had a pork loin with cracking stick which was absolutely yummy. I’m kind of torn, so I’d like to give a huge shout-out to Victuals in St George’s Passage, too. I love everything they have done. It’s a wonderfully intimate place to eat with exceptional food.

    And pub?

    I’ll start at Bloody Mary’s on High Street, then move on to the Gaiety Bar or Bohemian where I admit to enjoying holing up in their intimate interior with a good friend and a bottle of vino. And for a different vibe and décor I might end up in the King’s Head!

    What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had?

    Recently I had a supermarket breakfast when a friend took me shopping. It was pretty inedible and I simply cannot describe how bad it was…

    And the best?

    Tenerife in the Gulf del Sur, an unassuming seaside restaurant. I like my meat cooked blue so it has to be really good, and believe me their fillet steak is cooked to perfection and cuts like butter every time I go there. It’s £15 for a huge hunk of fillet steak: cheap but outstanding.

    Your favourite TV cook?

    Gotta be Rick Stein: I love following his travels through the Med and Mexico. I find it so interesting when he talks about culture and gets to know the locals and what they are cooking…

    What do you think of Deal as a place to eat out?

    It’s evolving so much: I’m excited to see more and more businesses opening, a real mix of wonderful restaurants and cafes to cater for everybody.

  • Deirdre Kashdan

    Deirdre Kashdan is an artist and avid supporter of The Astor Theatre, and the woman behind the Postcards from Lockdown fundraiser.

    “I was born in Bermondsey, and my parents ran various businesses there – including a pub. We moved to Kent when I was 12, though my father continued to run his businesses in London. At 18, despite wanting to go to art college, my school and parents persuaded me to train as a teacher. I think it was seen as a ‘safer’ option. Luckily, I took to teaching naturally, and spent 20 years in a range of schools in Kent, Derbyshire, and Somerset. In my forties, I left my job as a Headteacher, and went to Art College after all. I was awarded a degree in Fine Art at the Kent Institute of Art and Design in Canterbury in 2002.

    "I visited Artist Open Studios in Deal in 2008 and realised what a friendly and creative community it was. I was ready for a change and within months, I had sold up and moved to Middle Street. I had been widowed 4 years earlier and was working full time for the charity Action for Children, setting up and managing new services for families in the Dover District. These services included counselling for children and families affected by domestic abuse.

    "At 58, I took early retirement from Action for Children, threw myself wholeheartedly into Deal life, and decided to find a house with a sunny garden where I could have a studio. I found the ideal house.

    "These days, I am in my studio most days, either creating new work or running art workshops for adults. Whether a complete beginner, or someone with more experience, these sessions are about building confidence, experimentation and taking risks. I am a strong believer in the importance of play, at any age. I certainly don’t intend to stop!

    "During lockdown, I missed the people that come regularly for classes. But it was a liberating time for making new work and learning different processes such as etching. I was content spending long hours in my studio. I still am.

    "I received a message calling on artists to help save the Astor, by donating a piece of work for a raffle. With the Astor being a community theatre, it made me wonder about inviting everyone to contribute, not just artists, a fundraiser to involve the whole community. What better subject than our reactions and experiences of lockdown itself? And the simple format of a Postcard seemed perfect.

    "Artist Rebecca Murphy offered to contact schools, and I would get the rest underway. Artistic Director James Tillit was delighted to hear of the initiative.

    "The response was fantastic, with more than 100 people contributing at least one postcard. The cards were poignant, witty, beautiful, and included photographs, drawings, paintings and collages. People from 4 to 84 years took part and the final exhibition of 300 cards plus slideshow was attended by nearly 200 visitors. After the exhibition, the cards were scanned, placed in packs of three and sold randomly. A poster was also produced, with an image from every participant included. The combined sales of cards and posters is now nearing £3000.

    To find out more about Deirdre’s art and ARTITUDE workshops, check out her website

    Deirdre Kashdan’s Favourite Things

    The People

    The people here are so welcoming, they helped me quickly integrate into Deal life and create a broad circle of friends. My close friends include relative newcomers, like myself, but also people that were born and bred here. I relish their stories of the ‘old’ Deal.

    The Sea

    I have never lived by sea before, but now I can’t see myself ever being away from it. It lifts my spirits, whatever the weather, especially when I swim. When I arrived in Deal, I quickly swapped my Ducati Monster for a campervan. When I’m not out and about exploring, it becomes my beach hut on wheels.

    The Arts

    You can go pretty much anywhere in town on a Sunday and hear quality live music in the pubs, at the Lighthouse, at The Astor… it would be sad to lose any of these venues which have worked so hard to entertain us.

    We also have a growing number of galleries in the town, including Linden Hall in St George’s Road, Will and Yates, and Taylor Jones and Son in the High Street, where I am happy to have my work on sale.

    The High Street

    What a treat to be able to get such a range of high-quality local produce in our High Street. I’m a regular at Jenkins & Son, The Meat-In Place in Queen Street for a shoulder of lamb or steaks and the Black Pig for Lizzie’s sausages. We’re spoilt with our two greengrocers, and then there’s the Saturday morning market for wine, Kentish cheeses, plants and flowers. I always seem to make for the plant stall first to see what I might add to my garden.

    For gifts I always head for Hoxton’s Store, or Mileage for something vintage.

    The Ship

    This rare old-fashioned pub in Middle Street holds a very special place in my heart. It was the first pub I ventured into when I came to Deal. I lived just a few doors away, and it is where I made my first friends in Deal. I will never forget the welcome from landlords Penny and Ray, and just sitting and talking in the garden on a Friday night. I felt totally at ease going there on my own. I still do. There’s always somebody there you’ll know. And the prices …….. !

    Wherever I go, Deal is always a great place to come home to.

  • Sarah Jane McGahan of Daisy Green Holistic Shed

    Sarah is a holistic therapist, born and bred in Deal, and proprietor of Daisy Green Holistic Shed, a unique spa run from an uber she-shed in Sarah’s back garden

    “I have always loved beauty products and when I first went for a spa day, I felt so relaxed and chilled, I decided it was the career for me! When my son was two, I enrolled in adult education and qualified as a beauty therapist, followed by completing a holistic massage course. It was during the massage training I noticed everything seemed to fall into place, the treatments flowed much more easily. I worked as a receptionist in a small salon while I was studying, followed by various jobs in spas and salons including spa manager for a leading skincare brand, before I took the plunge to set up on my own three years ago. I invested in a rather wonderful shed in my garden I call my natural skincare studio, where I like to treat people’s skin beautifully, help their aches and pains, give my clients a moment in their packed lives for some hard-earned ‘me-time’ to think about nothing and even nap away from their kids and job. In the sanctuary of the shed, I offer bespoke holistic facials, hot stone massage, head massage, body scrubs, waxing, manicures, pedicures and more. I love talking to people to really get what makes them tick, what they need so I can best help them. I also offer a bespoke organic product range from Surrey starting at £15 and make my own lavender body scrubs. Our pamper baskets from £20 are ready for gifting anytime, especially at Christmas and individual products will be ethically wrapped in scarves made out of recycled saris I select from another local independent.

    “During lockdown, I had to shut my spa business which was utterly heart-breaking. I’m not afraid to say I’m an emotional person, so many tears were shed (!). My pampering products were all sitting in the spa, so I decided to make up face and body pamper packs and deliver them to my customers at home… literally on my bike!

    "I contacted all my customers to tell them I had to close and offering them our product packs. I was so relieved when they loved the idea: deliveries kept my mind and brain ticking over, my body out in the fresh air with spa deliveries in my ‘granny-style’ bike basket! Most of my orders came via the Deal Delivers Facebook page, which accounted for about 60% of the business- a total lifeline for me to pay the bills. If it wasn’t for Deal Delivers, we just wouldn’t have had an audience. People wanted to treat themselves and get back to a bit of normality when times were anything but normal. Treat night in, like mum and daughter pedis, were particularly popular.

    To purchase Sarah’s pampering products and home ‘treat’ment kits or vouchers, email Sarah at

    Sarah McGahan’s Favourite Things

    The beach

    I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but the beach is where I’m happy and is at the centre of many of my fond memories growing up here in Deal. A walk along the sea front is where I go for time to myself, to get some fresh air and clear my thoughts. I always notice if you are in the car coming from London - as you get towards Dover, the air quality changes.

    I like to go early, about 6am and usually stroll between Deal and Sandown Castle. Some days the sea is tranquil, other days it’s crazy and I often see the ‘Deal seal’. Can anyone tell me if there’s more than one?

    Deal People

    There is so much community spirit here in Deal. In a crisis like the pandemic, it is heartening to see everyone rallying together to help each other out and get through together. Deal has history, charm, character and smiley people- no wonder we are becoming ever more popular.

    Kingsdown Woods

    With the seafront one side, in just a couple of minutes’ walk you can be in the woods, through the fields or along the cliffs exploring all the wonderful nature of the area, butterflies, bees, flowers…

    I particularly love seeing and smelling the carpet of bluebells in Kingsdown woods in the spring and snowdrops in the winter.

    St Margaret’s Bay and Sandwich Bay

    A walk along the cliffs to the cosy beach at St Margaret’s is lovely, with a bonus it’s not so well known, so less busy or crowded. You can maybe have a well-earned drink at The Coastguard and I sometimes walk on to Dover.

    Sandwich Bay is beautiful, we sometimes take our campervan during the day and make our lunch in our little kitchen, maybe a nice chicken salad with meat, breads and dips from Deal’s wonderful Saturday market. I particularly appreciate the greengrocers and good quality meat from the butcher there. I’d also recommend a day trip to Rye, especially the nature reserve where we saw a family of seals recently.

    Top restaurants

    The Thai Restaurant on High Street and 81 Beach Street are our favourites so far. Located opposite The Royal Hotel, I think 81’s burgers and sea bass are particularly good, really lovely food. Two years ago, I travelled Thailand for four weeks and fell in love with the spiciness of Thai food. A Pad Thai or Red Thai curry with Udon noodles on High Street brings those magical memories back…

    Urban Chic

    The owners at Urban Chic, Claire and Dawn are so friendly. I love their clothes, my most recent purchase being a T Shirt and I can always find little gifts for people.

    Local food

    Jill Martin of Town Kitchen has a stall at the Saturday Market where I am always tempted by her delicious sausage trolls, curries and more. I was also introduced to the scrummy Hotsie Totsie cakes and bakes by Jill’s daughter Jessica Martin through the Deal Delivers page and have become a regular customer. Can I recommend her gin and tonic cake? Mmmm. I went to a ‘Ladies at Lunch’ event where Jill was the guest speaker and her daughter Jessica made the delicious dessert. To attend the event advertised online, I had to get in quick for one of the few spaces around Jill’s kitchen table… which is also in her garden shed. There’s clearly a theme!