STEPHEN Jones was working his dream job in London in March when the coronavirus crisis brought the country to its knees.
The Albury-raised man was a junior sous chef at Michelin star restaurant, Elystan Street, in Chelsea.
He had planned to stay on until at least October.
"When the lockdown came in and restaurants closed, it was easier to come home than spend weeks in a tiny, little apartment in London," he said.
"At first we thought the restaurant would be closed for two weeks but then when the reality sunk in, Mum and Dad looked after me and said: 'Come home'."
The former James Fallon High School student said he had followed his older brother, Nathan, into hospitality.
He trained at William Angliss Institute in Melbourne before he got a job at Society Restaurant and Bar at the top of Bourke Street.
"Back in Albury I worked at Rita's Kitchen and Border Wine Room before I went to Canada for a couple of years," Jones said.
"Then back in Australia at Astra Falls Creek I worked with Toby Burrowes, who came from Corowa and went on to Elystan Street."
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Under the tutelage of Elystan Street executive chef Phil Howard, who had previously gained and retained two Michelin stars at The Square restaurant, Jones said he had relished the chance to learn from one of the best in Britain over 15 months.
Jones said the kitchen was regarded as "the Australian embassy" due to the high ratio of Australians on board when he first joined.
"We had an amazing trip to the Italian alps, where we were cooking dinners and snowboarding in between," he said.
"We were meant to be going again on the 10th of March but COVID-19 started to get really bad in Italy."
Having taken over the chef duties at Pemberton Pantry in Forrest Hill, Jones said he was thrilled to be cooking breakfast and lunch dishes with quality Border produce.
He said Jones Street Butchery and Butts Gourmet Smokehouse were among the suppliers.
"It's just beautiful rich food made from homegrown quality produce," Jones said.
"I'm trying to bring Phil's (Howard) simple style to stunning ingredients."
Elystan Street provided thousands of meals for the National Health Service during the COVID-19 crisis before it recently reopened for takeaway.
"With travel bans in place, I'm not sure when I'd be able to get back," Jones said.
"I've been travelling the last four out of five years so I'm enjoying spending time with Mum and Dad and my friends. I've done a lot of sourdough baking and I definitely prefer Albury coffee over London coffee!"
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