Harpenden teacher launches recipe website after three personal tragedies

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 February 2020

Claire Gilles in the kitchen.

Claire Gilles in the kitchen.

Penny Bird

A Harpenden teacher who channelled her grief from three family tragedies into a positive outcome wants to share her story to inspire and motivate other people in a similar situation.

Claire Gilles in the kitchen.Claire Gilles in the kitchen.

Claire Gillies is a busy 42-year-old mum-of-two and part-time teacher whose love of cooking proved to be her salvation in the face of personal loss.

Her story begins in July 2016, when her dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

"When you are faced with such a diagnosis you feel helpless as there seems to be nothing that you can do; you can't make things better and it's difficult to know how to help. I decided that I would use my love of cooking to help my parents; I began to take meals round - this not only lightened my mum's work load, but it also showed them how much I cared and gave me the opportunity for regular visits.

"I also continued to host regular family get-togethers: something I have always done, but with my dad's diagnosis, it seemed even more important that we got together as a family.

Claire Gilles in the kitchen.Claire Gilles in the kitchen.

"I have always cooked from scratch, but my dad's illness made me start to think about how important what we eat is; it made me more determined to limit the amount of processed foods I put on the table.

I decided to start Facebook and Instagram pages to share tips, hints, recipes and inspiration with others- I wanted to show how easy it is to cook from scratch. I whole-heartedly believe that our diet plays a massive role in supporting our general health and our well-being…food certainly plays a massive role in mine!"

Sadly, her dad passed away in February 2017, shortly after his 70th birthday, but he became Claire's motiviation and drive, and she continued on her mission to inspire others to ditch processed food and cook from scratch.

But then that December she received the heartbreaking news that her older brother had also been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Claire GillesClaire Gilles

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"Once I had processed what was happening and dealt with all of the questions in my head - 'Why us? How can life be so unfair? What have we done to deserve this?' - I once again used my love of cooking to help me with my grief and support my brother and his family.

"I cooked lunch for the two of us each Tuesday and we ate it together and chatted - valuable time that I am so glad we shared. I would also get things ready for dinner that evening so that my brother could sit down with his wife and children and eat a home-cooked meal: it's time like these when it is all too easy to grab a processed meal from the supermarket. My time and cooking was such a small thing but it meant so much to us all."

Claire lost her brother in July 2018, aged just 49, but again she channelled her grief in a positive way.

Claire Gillies with her family: husband Rob, Evie and Sam.Claire Gillies with her family: husband Rob, Evie and Sam.

"I decided that I would turn my social media presence into something else. I started on a journey to publishing a website packed with my simple home-cooked recipes that even the most reluctant cook could manage! My plan was to offer a subscription service at minimal cost; to show others that planning meals leads to healthier choices and saves money; and to demonstrate that cooking from scratch isn't complicated.

I was now doing this for my dad and my brother - they were my motivation and drive and inspiring others to lead healthier, happier lives was definitely helping me deal with my grief. Whenever a follower commented on how they'd enjoyed a recipe of mine or explained how meal-planning had helped them make healthier choices, I did a little happy dance!"

But then last August, tragedy struck again when her other brother suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of 47.

"There was no warning and no time to say goodbye. It really makes you realise how precious life is and how you have to make the most of the time you have.

Claire Gillies with her children Evie and Sam and Scout the cockapoo.Claire Gillies with her children Evie and Sam and Scout the cockapoo.

"None of us know what is around the corner but I want to give my family the best possible chance of a long and healthy life. By cooking from scratch every night I am teaching my children good habits that will hopefully stay with them into adulthood.

"But it's not just about my family; I want others to follow my lead and plan home-cooked meals. And I want to show people that by channeling your grief, you can have a positive impact on not only yourself but also on others."

You can find Claire's recipies on Facebook by searching for @deliciousandreal

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