Madhatters Tea Room in Kimberley was a success from word go.
In a town where new businesses struggle, owner Nygel Stevenson made a huge hit of it with his inspiring Alice in Wonderland theme and his colourful personality.
And now he’s fullfilled his life long dream of working for himself, the mad hatter has put pen to paper to write his memoirs.
Nygel’s road leading up to opening Madhatters was a particularly interesting one, and one which he felt he wanted to share with others.
The 41-year-old set out in life to have variety, and when he chose a career in catering, he knew he wanted to work in as many areas of the business as he possibly could.
From working on cruise ships in the US to serving A list celebrities and the royal family back here in the UK, Nygel has done it all.
“It was always my aspiration to work in as many different environments as possible and achieve as much as possible,” he said.
“I wanted to do everything – hotels, fine dining, cruise ships, boutique country house hotels, the lot.
“But this was the icing on the cake. Working for yourself is fabulous and I wanted to let people know that it doesn’t have to just be a dream. I didn’t have pots of money, I did it on a shoe string. It’s drive that gets you there.”
And it was that sense of achievement that made Nygel want to write a book.
“I’ve always wanted to do it since opening the shop because I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved.
“One of my teaches at school once told me I wouldn’t pass my exams or go anywhere.
“I have been working my whole life towards having something of my own and I thought I have done it! When it started going well I just wanted to let people know a little bit about me, and when I got thinking about it I thought to myself I’ve lived quite a colourful life.”
Nygel used to live in the West End where his next door neighbour was Twiggy.
He worked at 47 Park Street alongside famous chef Michele Roux junior, where he met stars including Michael Jackson and Madonna.
“They used to have code names so when you took food up to them you would never know who was going to walk out,” said Nygel.
He served the Queen mother a fish lunch at the hotel each Friday, and waited on the rest of the royal family during a stint at Buckingham Palace.
Memoirs of The Mad Hatter was launched last Thursday at Alice’s Antiques in James Street, where the tea room is now based.
People came to buy the book, and many couldn’t even wait until they got home to read it, as they pulled up chairs with a pot of tea to make a start.
Nygel said he has already been approached by several people asking if there is going to be a volume two, which he said he is now working on.
The book was published by DayGlo – a publishing company ran by Kimberley author Gloria Morgan for Dyslexic people.
Several members of Nygel’s family suffer Dyslexia, so he thought it would be fitting to have the book available for all abilities to read.
The book was Gloria’s first autobiography.
The author said: “When Nygel approached me I thought it would be a great opportunity because he always struck me as someone who had a real tale to tell. And he really did have.
“Nygel is known locally but it’s a great read for anybody to pick up.”
Nygel is a governor at Kimberley Primary School and gets involved in local community events and charity work.