He’s cooked for Her Majesty the Queen and worked under renowned restaurateurs – but chef Robert Steel has the makings of a culinary success story on Wearside.
Alongside brother Charles, Robert, a former member of the Buckingham Palace kitchen team, has created Little Italy in Washington’s Galleries shopping centre.
The pair say they wanted to bring a “premium product” to the area with freshly-cooked food using authentic Italian ingredients, to create classics such as eggplant parmigiana.
Diners seem to agree with the addition, with the Steels already extending their operation into another unit.
“We’re doing authentic Italian food, which I don’t think there is a lot of around here,” said Robert, 49.
“We’ve been open for 20 weeks now and we’re already finishing our extension.
“There were only 17 seats when we opened, but that’s going up to 40 to cope with demand.
“We were losing business before when we couldn’t fit everyone in, so things are going really well.”
Serving his apprenticeship at the prestigious Michelin-starred Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel, in the Lake District, where he started as just a pot washer, the late Francis Coulson managed to develop Robert’s passion for cooking.
After four years he headed out to sea aboard Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2. Within six years, Steel was given the title of Chef de Cuisine.
He then spent seven years as a chef in American before returning to his native North East.
“We’ve had great reviews on Facebook so far from customers and we just want to keep things going,” said Robert, who along with Charles, 46, is originally from Newcastle.
Little Italy is based at unit 68 to 71 in The Galleries’ Market Village.