The Catenians


Cooking with Confidence

Publish Date: Fri 23rd Aug 2019


When Adam Hopkins left school, his future was far from certain. With only a handful qualifications, his life wasn’t heading in a good direction. But one job was on his mind.

“I always knew I was going to be a chef. My Nanna said to me that everyone in the world needs feeding, so that’s what I wanted to do. I felt that’s what I was good at and I also love art and photography, so I use all that in cooking. I love creating new dishes and exploring the world, learning new styles of cooking.”

With the help of the Bursary Fund, Adam joined a hospital ship touring Africa, which offered life-changing procedures free of charge to people who otherwise would have no access to surgery.

“I heard about MS Africa Mercy through a friend and in church too,” he explains. “I decided to research this charity and that’s when I knew what I needed to do. I needed to go to Africa and do voluntary work over there, to help people and feed them, because without the cooks or any other job on the ship it wouldn’t work.”

picture with three

Adam thoroughly enjoyed his experience. Although the hours were grueling and his team produced many thousands of meals every day, it was a joyful time.

“I loved ship life and always wanted to be a chef on a cruise ship. This wasn’t a cruise, but I enjoyed my time on the ship and how we all had a role, working together to heal those in the hospital. I used to work long days but I enjoyed every moment. I also enjoyed spending time with the patients.”

Among the many highlights of life on board, Adam loved meeting new people, taking on new responsibilities, building his confidence and creating precious memories.

He says: “It had its ups and downs, but I kept going because I knew I was changing someone’s life. I met so many wonderful people, which made it even better. I enjoyed sailing – that was an amazing experience – and exploring Africa at a young age. Sailing was my favorite part because I had time to reflect and work hard. I loved growing with God on the ship and exploring my faith.”

He continues: “At home, I was seen as below people because of my age, but at Mercy Ships, anyone can show their knowledge or try making something new. We were all different ages with different experiences, but everyone could shine. The galley crew could all taste-test something, and we could be really honest because we were all there for one thing: to feed everybody.”

When he returned to the UK, Adam went back to college, secured a job at a kitchen and worked his way up. He went on to study Culinary Arts at the University of Derby’s Buxton campus. “I love studying, even though I thought I was never good enough or smart enough, and I am getting firsts in my uni work.”

At present, he is working in America in Highlands, North Carolina, as a chef at Old Edwards Inn and Spa, after being headhunted for the role.

“I have learnt so much here and I love it. I got a scholarship from the uni and I was able to come here and learn so much for the future, and I’ve also been working pass [the long, flat surface where dishes are plated and picked up by waiting staff], events and lots more.”

Adam has come a long way but he will always be grateful to the Catenians and the Bursary Fund.

“They changed my life because without them I would have not been able to work in Africa and help so many people while helping myself as well. It’s changed me and made me realise how much we have in life and that I am blessed.”

And, of course, he owes a lot to his Nanna. 


“My Nan will always be my best friend: she taught me how to cook and used to make the best roast dinners and gravy I’ve ever had. She taught me many things but what I took from my Nan was her cooking and feeding the family. No one ever went hungry, she will always be my inspiration. Before she passed away, she said to me that everyone in the world needs feeding and you won’t ever be out of a job because of that. I now know that I have a passion for cooking because of my Nanna.”

As for the future, Adam says: “I would like to travel the world and be a chef and also teach in the future and help others. Cooking is a passion and a hobby for me.”

cheif food