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.

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.


Sarah Gilbert

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.

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.

Katherine Holderith

Katherine Holderith is a PhD researcher in the Department of History at Durham University. Her research focuses on gendered aspects of monasticism in Britain from the late Anglo-Saxon to the High Medieval period. Though she primarily works with manuscripts, a driving force behind her research is an interdisciplinary approach including archaeology, architecture, and social theory. Katherine greatly enjoys exploring ways to make the medieval period accessible and relatable for people outside of the academic discipline, herself coming from a marketing background. Originally from the United States, she takes delight explaining the concept of ‘old’ to her countrypeople.

Charlotte Spencer

PhD Candidate in the 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. Her project explores medieval French and Italian representations of gardens in art and literature from around 1140 to 1450. She is the current outreach co-ordinator for Durham’s Medieval and Early Modern Student Association (MEMSA), organising courses on gardens as well as on food, 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 one of her responsibilities was the translation of cookery classes from Italian to English or French for the chef and participants.

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.


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!

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