Chef James makes all the right moves in restaurant

James Ford
James Ford

‘The first time I saw Dirty Dancing, I knew that was what I wanted. I wanted the hotel with a grand restaurant and dancing at the same time.’

James Ford always had big plans when he was growing up in Bombay, India, now known as Mumbai.

He loved food and cooked for his friends and family, but rather than becoming a chef, he graduated in business and became a stockbroker.

He said: “It was very good in the boom. I came to England in 1993, just after the Gulf War, so I got out in time.

“I made a lot of money for other people.”

After three years, James decided to change his career and studied a catering diploma at night college.

James, 44, said: “In India, food is a big thing. I always sat down and had a proper meal at home.

“We had lots lots of dishes on the table and it was like a feast. Even poor people had four or five items and tucked in.

“Food has always been my passion. I love it.”

After completing the catering diploma, James decided to move to pursue a career in catering, staying with his grandfather in St Albans.

Even with his new qualification, he had to start at the bottom of the ladder and was employed in London as a kitchen porter.

But James was determined to succeed and worked hard, so he quickly climbed the ranks.

He was appointed as head chef of a reputable London restaurant just six months later.

James said: “I started low and worked my way up. I’ve aways been very ambitious.”

James says he “slogged his pants off” for the next 15 years to gain experience, both in the kitchen and front-of-house in several prestigious London restaurants.

He then took over the tenancy of the restaurant at a golf club in Oxford.

It went well and James decided to start a nationwide search for his dream Dirty Dancing-style restaurant.

He said: “I decided to sell the house. What I was cooking was all-day breakfasts and burgers and chilli every day. I wanted to be able to cook what I wanted.

“I found the perfect place in Perth, Scotland, but I didn’t think it would work. It was a bit too far for me.

“Truffles came along in Chorley and I thought it had really good potential.”

James opened Truffles, on Preston Road, Whittle-le-Woods, in 2003 as a fine-dining restaurant.

He wanted to display his passion for high-quality, beautifully-presented food and a high level of service .

The restaurant soon developed a reputation among diners and was ranked as the best restaurant in Chorley on review website Trip Advisor.

He also opened a tea room four months ago serving afternoon tea, ice cream and cakes.

Despite his Indian background, James decided to serve traditional British food “with a French influence” and the menu features dishes such as black pudding, Goosnargh duck and sticky toffee pudding.

But he did find a way to experiment with cuisines from around the world and holds gourmet nights each month serving a variety of meals.

As well as Indian dishes, he has served French, Thai, Chinese and other food during the gourmet nights.

Running his own restaurant has also given James the opportunity to enjoy his other passion in life - dancing.

James said: “I have been dancing since I was 15 and have done every kind of dancing - jazz, ballet, modern and ballroom.”

James says he dances whenever he can and regularly goes to venues in Preston and Manchester.

He has even brought dancing to Truffles, holding salsa nights at the restaurant each month, which have grown in popularity and attract more than 80 people.

The tables are moved out of the restaurant to allow people to take part in salsa lessons and dance the night away.

James said: “I thought I knew all about salsa, but it was completely different to what I knew.

“I got hooked on it. It’s a fantastic atmosphere and it’s a great place to be.”

He dedicates one of the nights each year to raising money for charity, this year collecting £150 for Marie Curie Cancer Care in memory of a friend.

James also likes to see other people dance and will regularly be seen DJing at parties held at the restaurant during December.

“I will quickly change and play music for people to come and dance. I play Christmas music, cheesy 80s songs, all sorts,” he said.

James is not married and has dedicated his life to his restaurant, where he also lives.

He works late nights nearly every day and will spend Christmas Day serving his customers.

On Mondays - his one day off work each week - he certainly cannot be found in the kitchen.

James said: “I work six days a week and when I have a day off on a Monday, all I do is eat kebabs and watch films.”

He has not even found the time to try the food at many of Chorley’s restaurants.

He said: “I do like the fish and chips in Chorley.

“I haven’t been to many other pubs or restaurants locally. I have been to a Thai restaurant in the town centre but that has closed down now.”

James’ life is totally different now compared to how he lived in India, but he insists he has no regrets.

He said: “I do miss the lifestyle I had as a stockbroker, going for lunch everyday and out at night with clients and friends.

“But at the same time I love what I’m doing now. I absolutely love cooking and I’m in the kitchen every night.”

And having achieved his dream of running his own restaurant with space for dancing, James’ plans for the future are all at Truffles.

He said: “I have no plans to move away from here. I love it here.

“I love Whittle-le-Woods. It’s a great location.

“When I came here it was for five years, but I love it and I’m staying.”