Meet the Team

We are a dedicated team, with a wide range of skills and experience. We love what we do, and we do it with passion, in our various capacities and places. The culinary team are based at Blackfriars Restaurant, the academic team from Durham University’s Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, visiting scholars, and friends and colleagues from around the world, and the filming team with Alan Fentiman in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

We look forward to working with you.

Andy Hook


Andy is originally from Cambridge and graduated in Physics at Swansea University. He then headed for the big lights of London where he watched Marco Pierre White open his famous first restaurant, Harvey’s in Wandsworth, a stone’s throw from his flat. Attracted by the legendary nightlife, the increasing cultural activities, the seaside and Newcastle United, Andy moved to Newcastle with a burning passion for entering the life of a restaurateur, he opened Sidney’s Restaurant in Tynemouth (since sold) followed by Blackfriars a few years later. In 2016 he opened Hinnies in Whitley Bay and Dobson & Parnell in Newcastle’s vibrant Quayside.


Giles Gasper

Professor of High Medieval History, Durham University

Giles joined Durham University in 2004 after receiving his education at the University of Oxford and the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto. He works mainly on European history of the 11th-14th centuries, its culture, ideas (especially science and religion), and people, and, of course, its food. Working with communities outside the university is a driving passion. He has participated in BBC documentaries, advises an international sound and light company The Projection Studio, and works with schools and charities locally, nationally, and internationally to encourage access to university education.


Alan Fentiman


Alan is a filmmaker and web video producer based in the North East. With over 15 years experience shooting, editing and producing beautiful films for broadcast, cinema and the web, his clients include The BBC, Channel 4, The Discovery Channel & CNN. Based in Newcastle he works with arts projects across the North-East and with universities: he is currently Filmmaker in Residence in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Durham University (2020-21). He has worked with The Baltic, Hatton Gallery, The Sage, TWAM, Forma Arts, Durham Brass Festival, Berwick Visual Arts, Northern Print, GIFT, The Bowes Museum and Vane Gallery.


Florence Swan

PhD Student Durham University and Blackfriars Restaurant

Florence recently joined the Eat Medieval team after completing her MSt at Oxford and BA at Royal Holloway. Her PhD, ‘The Transmission of Taste’, examines food, recipes, and taste in England c.1150-1400. Collaborating with Blackfriars Restaurant, her archival research will be complimented with the practical knowledge of culinary science and recipe development from the restaurant. Although a food historian, her research interests encompass a variety of topics from medieval horticulture to London urban life in the twelfth to sixteenth centuries.  

Sarah Gilbert

St John’s College, University of Cambridge

Sarah is a researcher who studied at Cambridge University for her undergraduate degree and MPhil, before moving to Durham in 2013 where she completed a PhD investigating the design and use of medical manuscripts in England in the early middle ages. Sarah is now a researcher who specialises in medieval handwriting and art, particularly in relation to scientific and botanical manuscripts produced in western Europe c. 900–1250. Outside of work, Sarah loves to cook, so the eatmedieval course was the perfect chance to bring together her hobby and her research.

Charlotte Spencer

PhD Student, School of Modern Languages and Cultures (French and Italian), Durham University

Having already completed her BA and MAR at Durham University, Charlotte is now working on a PhD in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. Whilst her project explores gardens in French and Italian art and literature from around 1140 to 1450, her research interests include medieval French and Italian literary and material culture more broadly – from its manuscripts to its tapestries, and of course, its food. As well as being part of Eat Medieval, she has organised outreach courses on gardens and food for Durham’s Medieval and Early Modern Student Association (MEMSA) and is very keen to share academic work with the wider community. Previously, she has also worked at a hotel-cum-vineyard nestled in the Tuscan hills, where she led wine tours and translated cookery classes from Italian into English or French for the chef and participants.

Craig Nicholson

Demonstrator and Chef, Blackfriars Cookery School

Amongst many worldly things Craig Nicholson has done in his professional career is to live for 4 months of permanent darkness whilst catering for research scientists in Antarctica. On top of his technical skills, he has spent the last 7 years in the education industry working in both a charitable college in rural China teaching Hospitality and Catering, rising to the position of Vice Dean and as a chef trainer based in Phnom Penh.

Craig joined Blackfriars in 2019 as the Cookery School Teacher and immediately set about expanding the culinary programmes by revamping many of the existing formats as well as introducing additional ethnic cookery classes, master classes, extended courses and apprenticeships. He has a real thirst for knowledge and is full of ideas – a very much appreciated member of the medieval cookery team!

David Thompson

David trained as a mediaevalist at Oxford with a doctoral thesis on Middle English before turning his collar round and entering the Anglican ministry. Now in retirement he is an Honorary Assistant Bishop of Hereford and greatly enjoys working with all things medieval, including food. He remains active in academic research as an Honorary Fellow in the History Department at Durham, also working alongside Giles in the Ordered Universe Project on (another bishop) Robert Grosseteste.


Jamie Irvine

PhD student, Department of History, Durham University

After several years as a schoolteacher, developing a love of teaching and outreach, Jamie was able to return to his passion of historical research with the help of an AHRC scholarship in 2018. His project aims to discover the causal origins of the ‘religious movement of the twelfth century’ – a radical new ascetic ideology emerging in Europe between 1050 and 1150, leading most prominently to the emergence of a raft of new monastic orders. He combines interests in medieval religious orders and the origins of ideas with structural and theoretical approaches, recently joining the team at Blackfriars on a placement to help uncover its place in Dominican networks and the original form of its architecture.

Hector Sequera

Lecturer in Music Performance Durham University

Hector is active as a performer of early chordophones of the lute family and as a musicologist. He has performed music ranging from the thirteenth-century Cantigas de Santa Maria to the Operas and Oratorios from the late baroque era. His research is focused on sixteenth-century performance practice issues as they relate to wider social and historical events. His most current work deals with music in English domestic circles, especially the Catholic families and their connections to the continent, and other research includes work on the Italian Frottola and the oral tradition that predated it. Hector alternates his research work with performances throughout Europe and the Americas.

Sigbjørn Sønnesyn

University of Oslo

Sigbjørn recently joined University of Oslo as a research fellow specialising in medieval liturgy. His research interests centre on medieval intellectual and religious life with a particular focus on the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.  He probably enjoys medieval Latin more than is good for him. Across his research, teaching, and engagement with the wider public, Sigbjørn is eager to share his joy in getting to know and understand human beings of the past. 

Matthew Clayton

Durham University

Matthew Clayton studied History and Medieval History at Aberystwyth University, where he achieved his BA and MA, before beginning his PhD at Durham University in 2019. He is interested in medieval political and historical culture, with a particular focus on the eleventh and twelfth centuries. His research project compares the ways in which historians writing within the Anglo-Norman Realm and the German Kingdom in this period used the Roman past.

Chris Wardale

Head Chef, Blackfriars Restaurant

Chris has been head chef at Blackfriars since 2015. Interested in being a chef since the age of 15 it was actually his older brother who provided the inspiration and opportunity for Chris’s own journey. This stated with a summer job working in the Treehouse Restaurant at The Alnwick Garden and things took off from there. As head chef he draws on the medieval heritage of the buildings in menu and event planning, as well as developing modern recipes offering a French twist on fine British cuisine.

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