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 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.
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.
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. 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.
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 enjoyed sampling the Christmas fare of his predecessor there, with his wife Jean, in Eat Medieval’s taste of Christmas Past. 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.
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!
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.
Alba Petit Castellví
Visiting Postgraduate Research Student, Dept. of Archaeology, Durham University
Alba Petit Castellví holds a BA in Archaeology from the University of Barcelona and an MSc in Biological Anthropology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. As a bioarchaeologist, she has participated in various projects on the medieval period in Catalonia. Her areas of expertise include palaeopathology, isotopes, and ancient DNA. Alba is interested in a range of topics in the humanities and in exploring cultures through their history. She has experience as a specialised tourist guide and is passionate about sharing academic knowledge with the wider public. Raised in Barcelona, she knows many of the secrets of Mediterranean cuisine and Catalan food traditions and their links with history and heritage.
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.
Gailann Riven Peake
PhD Student, English Studies, Durham University, UK
Gailann Riven Peake (known as Peaky) began her career as an artist, specialising in fine art portraiture and erotic impressionism, then as a drummer in several rock bands, followed by a BA (Hons) in Business Management and postgrad in Crisis Management, focusing on ethics and transnational disasters. She then completed her MLitt with Distinction in Viking Studies, examining how medieval Viking Age culture and Old Norse literature have impacted the development of Heavy Metal music. Peaky’s doctoral thesis on Viking Sexuality spans medieval Viking Age society and culture to its varying subsequent reinventions in the present day. In her spare time loves to cook and write, recently publishing her first book (literary fiction) within the psychological horror genre, winning the Highland Society of London Literary Award for 2018.
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.
Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Oslo
Sigbjørn is an expert in medieval thought across a wide range of disciplines – from philosophy and theology, to musicology and history. His research focuses on the 12th and 13th centuries and the extraordinary absorption in medieval Europe of traditions of thought from the Ancient World and the medieval Islamicate. A talented Latinist and Palaeographer, he has translated the scientific works of Robert Grosseteste (c.1170-1253) and is currently working on medieval liturgy. When not engaged in medieval studies, Sig enjoys playing traditional Norwegian music and contemporary jazz.
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