GERRY Barge is a star at The Castle.

He is a shining light for guests, a legend for staff who work at the Taunton hotel and he is the man who cooks one of the great breakfasts of Europe, maybe the world.

Gerry or to give him his real name Geoffrey, is originally from Chard, and first started at The Castle Hotel in 1971.

He left in 1974, but returned in 1976 and has been part of ‘the fixtures and fittings of the kitchen’ ever since.

And everyone is delighted he is with them every day.

When he arrived in 1971, there was another Geoffrey working in the kitchen, so he was re-Christened Gerry at work and is still Gerry at The Castle.

Speaking to the 65-year-old, there is a serenity about him, a calmness which exudes professionalism and experience.

He speaks about cooking and working at The Castle with a passion, the same passion which he said the Chapman family has for running the prestigious hotel.

Gerry, who has been the breakfast chef at The Castle since 1998, said: “My philosophy about cooking is the same as The Castle’s. It is about making sure everything you do, everything you make is quality. Whatever goes out for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or dinner should be quality.

“It should be consistent and breakfast should be as good if it is made at 7am as one made at 10am. When you stay at The Castle you should remember every meal. That is why I make my own strawberry and raspberry jams and my own Granola. It is lovely to hear people say how much they loved the jams. When I have made them I know they are good, I know I have got it right.

“When people come up to me and say that was lovely, or how much they enjoyed the meal, that makes me feel good. I want people to leave with happy thoughts.

“About three months ago an American lady who was here with her husband on a tour of Europe asked me to sign a menu. She said the breakfast she had eaten had been the best they had tasted across Europe.

“I have never been asked for my autograph in my life - I have only signed invoices.”

Gerry’s day begins at an hour when most of us are asleep in bed. While we sleep, Gerry is up and about at 3am and in his office at 4am. He is let in by the night-watchman and his day begins before ours have even started.

Gerry said: “I am able to get up at this time as I am used to it. I wake up at 4am when I have a day off. I am a morning person, I am not a night person. I am in bed by 9pm as I have to be up so early. This is my time of the day.

“There is pressure to perform (cook), there is pressure on me, but doing it makes me feel good and if I did not like it I would not do it.”

And speaking to Gerry, there is no denying he loves his job.

He is relaxed and chilled in what he does and cooks at what can be called a ‘subconscious level’.

This means he does not appear to be thinking about what he is doing but he is calm in the way he goes about being a chef as it is all down to experience.

He said: “If you are doing it (cooking) regularly then it all falls into place. I know if I do that at the start then I have this job next and so on. I have timers set which act as a reminder of what I need to do. Cooking is like chess, you are always thinking four or five moves ahead.

“It is all about experience, you are learning on the job and that experience is locked up until you pass it on to the next generation.”

The man who everyone turns to for their breakfast, turns to one person when he needs help or support. That person is his wife Josie, to whom he has been married for 40 years. They met at The Castle Hotel in 1976-77, when he was a chef and she was a waitress.

Gerry described Josie as ‘his rock’. He said: “She understands me better than I understand myself. She is my rock, absolutely. She understands if I am late or If I have to stay longer. She knows about the job as she has worked here.”

Josie and Gerry, have two sons and in Gerry’s words as a family they have been blessed with a granddaughter.

The best time of the day for Gerry is when he is at home having his evening meal.

Explaining why he said: “It is our time together (Gerry, his wife and one of their sons and the other lives away). This is my quality time when I am with my family at the end of the day.

“You come home and you chat about what has happened to you that day. It is our time together.”

I enjoyed my time with Gerry and like all the guests who appreciate his work, shook his hand and left with happy memories.