HIS distinguished 40-year career saw him serve Margaret Thatcher for two years as executive chef at Chequers and create a cake for the Queen's Silver Jubilee.

But despite retiring more than 20 years ago Ken Whibley is still just as passionate about food, cooking and catering.

Now a member of Birchwood Lions, Ken recently made a centennial cake to mark Lions Clubs International's 100 years of service.

And from regular evening meals to Christmas dinner the 78-year-old is always found in the kitchen.

The dad-of-three to Lawrence, 49, Paul, 47, and Mark, 39, said: "I still do all the cooking. Even if we go away to see one of my sons I still do all the cooking when I get there.

"It’s just the joy of creating a meal from scratch. I’ve always enjoyed that element of it and whoever’s there gets the benefit."

Ken has been fascinated with food since before he even started school.

The Old Hall resident added: "I was hanging on my grandma Alice’s apron strings since I was four. Her steamed suet puddings, spotted dick and things like that were my favourite.

"I used to make a lot of cakes – all the simple things that kids get up to when they’re that age."

After a two-year catering course at Westminster College, Ken started his career in 1956 at the Landsdown Club in Berkley Square.

In 1959 he had joined the RAF and by 1961 he was already catering for 2,800 in the airmen's mess.

But Ken's big break came when he was posted to Singapore and entered the Tri-service Salon Culinaire.

He said: "I was with a guy called flight sergeant Larry Green and he just gave me free rein to do whatever I wanted to do.

"I entered three competitions in three consecutive years and won just about everything going."

By 1974 Ken was posted to RAF Hereford School of Catering and won his first major competition in UK at the Torquay Salon Culinaire with Fillet Sole Duglaré.

In the same year he won the prestigious Prix D’Honour at Hotel Olympia.

Ken said: "That was the best one. It was a team event with four chefs from the RAF and you had to produce a four course meal for 12 people.

"We won that and on the back of that we were awarded the Best in Show for Hotel Olympia."

But his most intricate and daunting job was preparing the RAF 25th Jubilee Cake for the Queen as part of a team of three.

It took three months to plan, 36 hours to bake, weighed 350lbs and was four and half foot high

More national recognition came when Ken was named Chef of the Year 1980 by the Craft Guild of Chefs.

The judges were impressed by Ken's steak adapted from a dish he had at Hotel Taprobane in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

That led to him being invited to become executive chef at Chequers to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Ken, who has been married to Jean for more than 50 years, added: "That was a fantastic job. It was full on. You did about 140 hours a week.

"They were nothing like you’d imagine them to be. When they were off guard and being themselves they were exactly that. They were a person, not a Prime Minister or a politician."

Ken also said knowledge was the key ingredient to being a successful chef.

He said: "You’ve got to know your seasons, your foods. You’ve got to know everything there is going and you can’t do that without a lot of training.

"It does come off the top of your head. It’s instinct. I can do a lot of work without recipes because they’re already embedded in my mind.

"If I watch a programme my wife will tell you I comment on it and shout at the screen that it’s all wrong."