Robin Wraith, 54, has been the chef at Martin House, the children’s hospice at Boston Spa, near Wetherby, since it opened in August 1987, becoming the first children’s hospice in the North. He reveals all about his Yorkshire favourites.
What is your first Yorkshire memory?
I was brought up in Bingley, near Baildon Moor, and I have many happy memories of Bradford, but my happiest memories are of holidays at Sandsend on the Yorkshire coast. We’d go there regularly, playing cricket on the beach and building sandcastles. My time at Bingley Grammar School was enjoyable, but my forte came when I went to catering college in Bradford. My grandmother was a great baker and I baked with her. That’s where it came from.
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What is your favourite part of the county and why?
I would say the coast – Sandsend, Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay. I love the sense of freedom, the noise of the waves and the scenery. I remember as boys when we’d travel to the coast and you’d say who can see the sea first? I’m one of three brothers and all of us had to be born in Yorkshire just in case one of us was good enough to play cricket for the county.
What is your idea of a perfect day or perfect weekend out in Yorkshire?
Faith is important to me. So I’d start with going to church early and then we’d have brunch at the Ivy in the Victoria Quarter in Leeds, wander around the shops and read the Sunday papers in a cafe and then we’d be off to the Flying Pizza in Roundhay. I love the countryside, but I also love cities and I’m proud of my roots. Bradford gets a bad name, but I love its diversity. We have a lot of families at Martin House from Muslim communities and when I say I come from Bradford you are able to build a bond because you are from the same city.
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What is your favourite walk or view?
I like going back to Sandsend. I take my mum and niece from Oxford. We start at the cafe in Sandsend and then walk on the beach to Whitby. Once there, we walk up the 199 steps to the top and look at the church and abbey. Then, we walk down into Whitby, see the shops, have fish and chips and walk back on the beach before the tide comes in.
Which Yorkshire sportsman or woman, past or present, would you like to take out for lunch?
This will surprise you. My nephew Sam who, although he lives in Oxford, has Yorkshire blood in him. He plays for Oxford United’s under-11 side. I’ve picked Sam because young people provide hope for the future, and when he comes to Yorkshire to see grandparents and uncles, he plays football for hours in the garden. He’s so enthusiastic.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take out for dinner?
Laurence Fox, who was born in Leeds. He’s been excellent as Lord Palmerston in Victoria.
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What is your hidden Yorkshire gem?
Undercliffe Cemetery in Bradford. It tells the entire history of the city. When you walk through, you can see the whole city with its cathedral, churches, mosques and synagogues. The splendour of the monuments is amazing and what really does interest me is one area where Quakers are buried. The gravestones are all flat because Quakers believe that no man is greater than another and all of us are equal.
If you could choose somewhere or some object from Yorkshire which you could own for the day, what would it be?
York Minster, which is a majestic building. I particularly admire the skills that built it. I’d love to explore it from top to bottom and go where people don’t go.
What do you think it is that gives Yorkshire its unique identity?
I think it is the sheer grit of the people. That is instilled into the families who come to Martin House. Their world is turned upside down when a child is diagnosed with a terminal illness or dies suddenly. You look at their faces and you see the sheer determination as they live through harrowing experiences. I also think that Yorkshire is well known for the hospitality of its people.
Which is your favourite pub or restaurant?
I would say the Corner Cafe on Burley Road in Leeds. The curry is outstanding and the choice is fantastic. It sets the standard for any curry house in the country. Every time I go somewhere else, I say this is not as good as the Corner Cafe.
Do you have a favourite food shop?
Bettys, simply because at Martin House we love baking and when you look into Bettys’ shop window you see all those beautiful cakes and we take inspiration from that.
How has Yorkshire changed, for better or worse, since you have known it?
It has changed for the better. Yorkshire is finally starting to believe in itself. Yorkshire people are starting to be very proud of their heritage when you consider places like York and Saltaire.
Who is the Yorkshire person you admire the most?
I would say my mother Kathleen who brought up three boys. Her love for us was unconditional and she always put herself last. As I get older, I realise my mum sacrificed everything for us. The other person is Lenore Hill who was the first head of care at Martin House. She believed in me in 1987 and instilled in me the belief that we must make every day special here. Martin House is an amazing place. A lot of people think it’s doom and gloom, but the families we meet are just incredible and the hospice is a haven of hope in a chaotic world. Like in any good home, the kitchen is central to everything. It’s the first place families come to in the morning and the last place in the evening for a cup of tea or a piece of cake.
If a stranger came to Yorkshire and you had time to take that person to one place only, where would it be?
Saltaire. I love the whole atmosphere of the place. I like wandering through the streets and see what Titus Salt did for his workers.