Embarking on a remarkable adventure, Stefano D’Oca traversed diverse landscapes, ranging from the sandy shores of Sicily to the lush courts of Wimbledon, and ultimately found himself amidst the vibrant hub of a bustling fire station.
Over the span of five decades, as a distinguished head chef, he catered to the appetites of 10,000 Italian soldiers, while also crafting exquisite culinary experiences for the esteemed attendees at Centre Court.
The 66-year-old has been Head Chef at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) for more than 20 years.
He is responsible for the kitchen at their Service Headquarters in Washington and ensures the firefighters in their training centre are well-fed.
But the Sicilian foodie has worked in kitchens across Europe in his 50-year career and catered for all manners of clientele.
As a Sicily native, he grew up in a culture of good food and family, becoming an apprentice chef at just 16 years old.
His early career saw him working in hotel kitchens in his home country before taking on a chef job in the Italian Army that saw him serving 10,000 soldiers.
Stefano later moved to Switzerland to work in the kitchen of a 5-star hotel before moving to London where he worked in a string of restaurants.
After his spell in the capital, Stefano relocated to the North East, a region members of his family had already made their home.
He put his stamp on the restaurant scene in Newcastle when he was Head Chef at the city centre eatery the Italian Job, and later Francesca’s in Jesmond.
In late 2003, and with a young family at home, he took on the role of Head Chef at TWFRS – and he hasn’t looked back.
“My childhood was based around taste and smell. Italian cuisine is the best in the world. It is simple, local produce, all about flavour,” said the proud grandfather.
“When I first joined the fire service it was at the old headquarters in Newcastle city centre and I wanted that work life balance.
“I love being in a kitchen but the hours were not good and I had a young family at home that I wanted to spend time with.
“I love food and I love being a chef. I think it’s like being an artist. You look at a piece of food and you produce a picture on the plate.”
For the last 16 years, Stefano has also worked in the high-pressure kitchens of Centre Court at Wimbledon, serving exclusive visitors to the tournament.
He says the annual role allows him to utilise some of the best ingredients in the world and has been the “honour of a lifetime”.
But now the well-respected chef is looking for another cook to join his team at the TWFRS Washington headquarters.
He said: “Our kitchen is very different to Wimbledon but it is a good environment to work in. We have fantastic facilities and are well supported by management.
“We get to create different menus, nutritious food. It is a great organisation to work for and this is an exciting opportunity to be part of the team.”
To follow in Stefano’s footsteps find out about career opportunities at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service by visiting the ‘Work for Us’ section on their website.
That includes a position as cook in Stefano’s team at the TWFRS HQ in Washington working 18.5 hours a week.