Nikki Rowan Kedge
Nikki Rowan Kedge was born in Leicester. She never knew her mother or her father, who was an American G.I. stationed over here during the war.
She was adopted by Mr and Mrs Kedge and the fact that she was adopted gave her a lifelong sense of searching for identity.
Her love of the sea and the coast, which remained with her all her life, saw her join the WRNS as a young adult, serving for 12 years, stationed at HMS Mercury and HMS Victory; she was a Leading Wren and quickly promoted to Petty Officer.
It was during this time that high standards of service were inculcated as her training was rigorously strict – she had to oversee a group of Stewards, learn to carve, mix drinks and serve at large naval dinners – often into the early hours of the morning, then having to rise a mere few hours later to ‘raise the officers’ for their breakfast. Skills that were to inform her later life.
Whilst in the navy she met her life partner, Angela Rawson (who followed in the steps of her great-aunt Iris Syrett, who founded the Tante Marie Cordon Bleu School of Cookery) and they left the navy together. They began a catering service offering dinner parties in peoples’ homes – (an idea ahead of its time!); they couldn’t think of a name but Angela’s mother suggested The Loaves and Fishes hoping it would mean they would never run out of food! The name stuck and Nikki and Angela began the business that would see them move from a small, one-roomed restaurant run from their home, to the Old Chapel at Rockley, nestled in the Marlborough Downs.
The restaurant and cookery school in the atmospheric converted old chapel, was really ahead of its time. They specialised in preparing fresh and wholesome food that used free-range, organically grown and non-intensively farmed ingredients (something which now seems to be the expected in great restaurants, but which then, was very novel).
The reputation of the restaurant spread and was, on one occasion, visited by the Editor of The Sunday Telegraph who acclaimed it as “one of the best places to eat in England” and featured Nikki and Angela on the front cover of the Sunday Telegraph Magazine.
They were also at this time writing their own cookery pages in various magazines and newspapers, as well as articles about the History of Food, and co-authored five cookery books. Nikki was a member of the Guild of Food Writers.
Nikki was also a passionate, self-taught musician, and composed, wrote and devised many productions based on the Classics (and especially Shakespeare) which she produced and put on with her partner Angela, to be performed by young people between the ages of 6 and 15; she believed that they were more than capable of understanding the incredible richness of the English Language and never needed talking down to. These performances were formative influences in the lives of many, many young people in Wiltshire and Norfolk where she lived latterly.
Her passion for good food, good wine and good company lasted until the last months of her life when she was suddenly and unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer. She had a deep sense of faith and spirit and her response to the registrar who told her of this diagnosis was typical of Nikki’s strength; she looked at him and said simply: “No. I’ve just bought a new pair of shoes and I am going to wear them.” Sadly she never did.