DAVID Baldwin can claim to be one of the best-known figures in Sheffield.
For 32 years, he has been the rock on which the reputation of his restaurant and banqueting venue in an old quarry in Brincliffe Hill, off Psalter Lane, has been built, a plain-speaking local-lad-made-good, renowned for his affability and culinary expertise.
Now he has something else to talk about. For the boy who left school at 15 with no formal qualifications has been awarded an honorary degree by Sheffield Hallam University for his services to the restaurant industry, especially his role in developing the careers of young chefs, and for his extensive charity work.
When the letter arrived at the office, the initial reaction was that it must be a spoof.
“I couldn’t believe it. It was the last thing in the world I expected,” says David. “It exceeds an MBE because it’s from your peers in your own city.”
He thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony at the City Hall, which was attended by family and friends. Daughter Polly, a professional photographer, flew in from Singapore.
“It was a fantastic day,” he says.
He told his life story - from being born in Broomhall Street to a first job at Tuckwoods in Surrey Street to mixing with internationally-famous chefs - when he made his debut as an author at the age of 70.
With wife Pauline, he turned a failed restaurant into a Sheffield institution, meeting the challenge of providing high-quality restaurant food for hundreds of people at a time.
His achievements were recognised nationally when he became chairman, and later president, of the Restaurateurs’ Association.
And more chapters are waiting to be written. For, at the age of 73, David has no intention of retiring. He will continue to work in the kitchens and on the wine list while Pauline sees to the office and front-of-house whenever they are in Sheffield.
“I’m going to carry on with the Omega and with developing young people. If I’m at home I go to work. When I get up in the morning, all I want to do is to go to work. I have got a fantastic bunch of people - 30-odd of them who have been there forever.
“The Good Lord will tell me when it’s time to go. I don’t see any future in this retirement! I like to see people and this is the best place to see them.”
It’s a case of whenever they are in Sheffield because David and Pauline spend some of their time at a property in the gastronomic hotspot of Girona in Spain where David goes into the kitchens of a local college to give students an insight into English cooking.
After the honorary degree ceremony, there was a party for 40 family and close friends - at Baldwin’s.
He will never be short of company. It’s a typical day. “There are 70 people for lunch and I knew at least one person on every table. There is a couple celebrating their golden wedding who were customers at the Anglers Rest in Bamford when I worked there in the 70s.”
What a tonic for Dr Baldwin.