When he’s not cooking and making brews at the Rutland Cafe, Gordon Pringle is busy preparing for the third Ilkeston Food and Drink Fair.
Gordon, 52, and wife Carol launched the first food fair a year ago after being inspired by one they had been to in Derby.
“I couldn’t sleep that night thinking about what we could do,’ said Gordon. ‘At first I thought we could have a few little stalls out the front of the cafe. Then we went to Belper Food Fair and asked people if they would be interested in supporting one in Ilkeston. A lot of people said ‘yes, that would be fantastic’. We gave ourselves 11 weeks to organise it and we were away for two. It was difficult but Carol is very organised. We had the idea and just went with it.
“A lot of people were sceptical about coming to Ilkeston because it has a bad name but a lot of people are loyal to anything in Ilkeston.
“Last year we had the scouts doing the car parking. We hold it Ilkeston Rugby Club because it’s a social centre for people there and we’re trying to get a sense of community.”
Gordon’s strong links with the club come from him playing for the team. He has played more first team games - about 800- for Ilkeston Rugby Club than any other player.
He admits that he and Carol were frightened to death the night before the first food fair. “I thought it would just be me, Carol and Val Custance stood there,” he said. “I had a horrible feeling it wouldn’t get across to people but when we were getting ready to open somebody said ‘come to the front gate’ and there were people queuing.”
The food fair has already grown from what it was a year ago and will see more than 50 stalls, including craft stalls take part. Pete Hewitt, who was a Masterchef contestant, will also be there.
Gordon has lived in Ilkeston since he was 11 and wants to bring it back to what it once was.
“I remember when we used to go up Bath Street and you would have to step off the kerb to get past people, you’d risk your life nearly getting hit by a bus.”
When he was 15 he started working as a waiter at the Regency Rooms at the former Co-op.
“It was packed out every Thursday and Friday, there’s nothing like that in Ilkeston now”, he said.
He then went on to sell chicken in Saudi Arabia.
“My friend was working out there and was telling me about it. I played rugby with a guy there who said they wanted people so I went and met him at a service station just off the M6, two weeks later I found myself in Saudi Arabia as an area sales manager for a chicken company.”
After 18 months he came back home before going to work in Dubai for a transport company.
He said: “One time we flew over Kurdistan on a plane where the propeller was started by hand. I was the only one that spoke English. Eventually they got it started and we had to fly 5,000 miles. On the journey back the pilots were Russian and were drinking vodka.”
When he came back to Ilkeston he had a couple of jobs before leaving his role as a courier and opening The Rutland Cafe in the late 80s.
He and Carol married in 2012 but first met when they were 16 and pupils at Ilkeston Grammar School. They dated in their teens but parted ways when Carol moved away for university, before reuniting nine years ago.
He has two daughters Isobel, 14, and Kensie, 12, stepson Ben, 26, and stepdaughter Ellie, 18.
His hopes for the food fair are for it to be something that people come to Ilkeston for. He said: “It’s not about ourselves, we put a lot of work in but it’s about having something that people can recognise Ilkeston for.”
The food fair takes place on Sunday October 11 from 11am until 5pm.