At 4.30am on August 15, chef Gareth Kyle will step on to a demonstration kitchen set-up in the shadow of Newcastle’s Grey’s Monument and begin cooking the first of more than 100 dishes.
Forty one hours later the 31-year-old will hopefully step away from the kitchen still in charge of all his faculties, and having earned a hard fought place in the Guinness Book of Records for completing the World’s Longest Individual Cooking Marathon.
If he successfully cooks his way through to 9.30pm on August 16 and achieves his dream of serving-up the coveted world record, he would like to think he will manage a celebratory glass or two of champagne.
“In reality, I think I will be heading straight home to bed and dreams of never cooking again!” he says with a laugh.
And who could blame him? But while you may be able to take the boy out of the kitchen, you can’t take away the lure of creating a well executed recipe.
Give him a few days and Gareth will be back whipping up a storm with a vengeance.
His unconventional route to a culinary career means he has always been willing to take a risk or two.
He only became a full-time chef last year via working for a national food distribution company and then in the financial services industry.
But since he was a child he has loved cooking, good food and pushing the gastronomic boundaries. He is also a rarity in that he (thankfully) thrives under pressure and likes to place himself in stressful situations.
His journey to being a full-time chef was actually kick-started in 2010 when he appeared as a contender on ITV’s high-profile Britain’s Best Dish where he served up a trio of desserts.
He didn’t make it beyond that stage but got a “massive buzz out of doing it.” He also developed a hunger to continue proving his foodie credentials.
Two MasterChef Live challenges cooking against the clock followed. Under the watchful eyes of judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace he successfully negotiated the pressure cooker atmosphere to produce two winning performances.
Last year he reached the final of the North East Culinary Trade Association’s North East Chef of the Year. Once again cooking in front of an audience live on stage, Gareth unfortuntaely didn’t win.
But the fact the enthusiastic but gifted ‘home cook’ had been deemed good enough to take his place alongside some of the region’s top restaurant chefs, was a spectacular achievement.
Emboldened by his success, last summer he decided to put his gastronomic skills to good use and turn into reality his longheld ambition of cooking for a living.
He now organises successful pop-up restaurant and street food events, and on August 8 helped launch this year’s EAT! NewcastleGateshead food and drink festival with a special outdoor feast held on the iconic Swing Bridge over the River Tyne.
Which brings the story back to Gareth’s cookathon challenge he’s also doing for EAT!
It will be held against the backdrop of this year’s EAT! festival finale, the always popular Food Heroes weekend market which will take over Monument and the top ends of Grainger and Grey Streets between August 15-17.
The annual EAT! showcase has earned itself a deserved reputation for staging innovative and often whacky foodie-themed events to capture the public’s imagination.
Gareth’s attempt to break the world record for the Longest Individual Cooking Marathon is this year’s headline grabbing story.
It was cooked-up in the spring. “We were talking about stuff for EAT! and looking for events and other things that hadn’t been done before, so the challenge was partly borne out of that,” Gareth explains.
“It was my idea; I thought it would be a cool thing to do, a great spectacle and also a good showcase for Newcastle and the region to have a world record attempt going on with somebody local like me doing it.
“The intention is that the challenge will be streamed live online, so for those 41 hours we can bring Newcastle and its food to a worldwide audience and really help put the city on the food map.”
Except it wasn’t originally going to be a 41 hour long record attempt.
Having accepted the challenge on behalf of EAT!, Gareth did some research and discovered the record stood at 36 hours and was held by a Dutch student.
Gareth decided to aim for 38 hours to ensure there was a comfortable margin to keep the record in the UK for the foreseeable future.
But in April the news came that an American chef had managed to extend the time to 40 hours.
The result is Gareth is now having to cook for five hours longer than he had originally anticipated.
There was, Gareth admits, much eye rolling and pulling out of hair when the announcement came though.
No-one would have thought any the less of him if he had decided to step-back at that point, especially as he is the proud father of a five month old son, Jack, with wife Rachel, 27.
But ironically, Jack could hold the key to his dad’s hoped for success.
“I’ve sort of got used to sleep deprivation,” he jokes. “And I’ve done plenty of night shifts in my time. I’m banking on the fact that I’m used to going without sleep and I’m only going to be cooking through the one night.
“If I can get to Saturday lunchtime in my mind, at least, I will be in the home straight. I’m confident at that point I will be able to make it through to 9.30pm.”
That’s not to say people don’t think he’s mad. “There is a feeling of disbelief that I’m doing it. It’s one of those things that seemed a good idea at the time but as the day draws closer you wonder what came over you!
“It’s certainly made things more difficult with the extra hours I’ve got to do, which is why I keep stressing to everyone that it’s a world record ‘attempt.’
“But I’m in it for the long haul and I’m sure I will get through it. I hope lots of people will come along to watch and cheer me on.”
Rachel and Jack will be part of the support team along with his brother, other family and friends.
Gareth won’t just be cooking. He plans to commentate on what he’s doing too, although he says he may give this part a miss during the pre-dawn hours when his audience is likely to go from zero to the odd passing Friday night reveller wending their weary way home.
The record attempt requires that all the food cooked must be eaten, however. So spectators are in for a treat. A chef’s table will be set up at Monument so hungry passers-by can partake.
And food will also be donated to the Newcastle-based homeless charity, the People’s Kitchen, which is helping Gareth out with equipment. Fenwick is providing the outdoor kitchen.
The rules stipulate that a domestic-style kitchen must be used for the record attempt.
Two witnesses at a time also need to record and log Gareth’s progress.
Not surprisingly, it is the longest continuous cooking stint that Gareth will ever have done, although he says running his pop-up events he is used to putting in 12 hour shifts over two or three days doing all the food preparation.
“I am likening what I am doing to that except I will be stringing all those 12 hours together,” he says optimistically.
He is allowed a five minute break at the end of every hour to take care of life’s necessities, but is aiming to store up those precious minutes over the course of 12 hours.
“Even then, that will only amount to an an hour’s break,” he says. “I’ve still got to decide what my best strategy is going to be.”
He also has to decide what he’ll be cooking. He estimates he will dish up around 100 different meals. Local specialities and a selection of his signature dishes, like his black and white striped Newcastle Scotch eggs, will definitely be on the menu.
He also intends to serve up food that matches the time of day, so early morning commuters and those coming off night shift can expect to partake of a full English breakfast.
Likewise, he may rustle up a few kebabs for the Friday night drinkers.
World cuisine will also be high on the list and hearty sharing dishes like cottage pie and lasagne.
But as he says: “It will inevitably end up being dishes that are easier to do. I’m kind of looking to mix things up so I’ll do some bread and baking, sweet stuff, perhaps a curry and recipes using basic kitchen cupboard ingredients.”
Gareth is hoping local restaurants and food producers will back him and step-in to supply ingredients in return for the chance to taste what he does with them.
With a week to go before he has to get his head down for his marathon cooking stint, how’s he feeling? “Very nervous. But I’m sure I’ll be fine once I step on to the kitchen.”
As MasterChef judge Gregg Wallace is fond of saying to contestents: “Cooking doesn’t get any tougher than this!”
* Follow Gareth Kyle’s bid for culinary glory on Twitter using the hashtag #GoGareth and live at www.EATNewcastleGateshead.com/GoGareth where his record attempt will be streamed live.
* For details on this year’s EAT! NewcastleGateshead food and drink festival go to www.newcastlegateshead.com/eat-festival