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

Restaurateur

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.

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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.

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Aditi Nafde

Senior Lecturer, University of Newcastle

Aditi is a senior lecturer in Medieval Literature specialising in the history of the book. Having studied at both UCL and Oxford, she joined Newcastle University in 2014. Her research interests in book history take her to archives around the world investigating manuscripts produced after the invention of the printing press. Her recent AHRC Early Career fellowship allowed her to work with rare book librarians, calligraphers, printers, booksellers, and digital specialists to answer a crucial question: why is handwriting still important in today’s digital world? Outside the dusty archive, she has produced a podcast for the Bodleian Library, spoken about Medieval Literature on BBC radio, and worked with local schools to broaden access to university.

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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.

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!

Alan Fentiman

Filmmaker

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.

Website

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.

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.

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.

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