Mike English: Hundreds of Edinburgh locals gather at farewell BBQ to say goodbye to beloved Leith chef
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More than a hundred people attended a farewell BBQ for a beloved food van owner who has made Leith Links his home for the last 21 years.
Mike English first opened his food van in 2003, still unsure if leaving his well paid off shore job was the right decision. But concerns were short lived after many in the local community soon became regulars with the charismatic chef establishing a flagship Leith business and making several lifelong friends.
Speaking to family and the large crowd of friends who attended the sunny Sunday (August 6) gathering, Mike said: “I want to thank every single one of you from the bottom of my heart – today was for me to say thank you to all of you. There’s an old saying and you all know it – if you find a job you enjoy doing then you’ll never have to work for a living – well I found that job.”
Opening up his food van for the last time, Mike was kept busy on the BBQ, treating his guests to a free breakfast and catching up with friends he’s made over the years. Friends joined the man of the hour to celebrate his well-earned retirement, describing him as a ‘Leith institution’ and a ‘living legend.’
Alongside serving his regular customers, Mike also looked out for members of the local community, giving free meals to people who couldn’t afford to pay and also providing free food twice a year to neighbouring St Mary’s Primary School for their annual fundraisers. The Leith chef was so beloved by the school that pupils sang outside his van on his 60th birthday – a moment Mike said ‘would bring a tear to a glass eye.’
Mike’s daughter Megan, who helped organiser her dad’s leaving do, said: “I knew it was going to be busy but the turnout has been unbelievable. Everyone’s enjoying themselves and getting their last roll from my dad. I had over 700 messages about it which is insane – from people saying thanks for what he’s done from them. From school teachers to people who come here every morning.” Megan added: “For me as a daughter to read that it’s so heart-warming.”
Lilly, a former pupil of St Mary’s Primary School, said she’ll miss seeing Mike on the Links. She said: “When we did a fun run Mike gave us all food at the end and again at our leavers party – it was really kind of him. In our school we’ve got an award called the Mike English award and it’s for people who show kindness because he’s so kind.”
Cliff McLeod, a friend of Mike for over 20 years, said: “He does the best bacon rolls in Edinburgh and he’s a great guy. If you were skint and you went to Mike he’d say ‘there you are, just have it.’ He helps the school, he helps the kids and that’s what I like about Mike – he’s one of the good guys, I’ll miss him.”
Friend of 16 years, Scott McGinn, said: “From the minute I met him he was an absolute character, he likes a laugh and a joke and the food was tremendous as well. My kids went to school across the road and he knows every kid by name which is absolutely crazy – there’s about 600 kids there.”
Scott added: “I think the turn out today speaks volumes for the man, what he’s about and what he puts into the community.”
Speaking to the Evening News about the tremendous turnout, Mike said: “It’s hard to put into words. We’d planned for about 15 or 20 people but this has just been absolutely overwhelming. Over the years we’ve had ups and downs, mechanical problems, gas problems freezing cold winters and lashing rain but it’s been brilliant, absolutely fantastic.
Mike added: “As I said earlier on, the old saying is if you find a job you love you’ll never have to work for a living – well, I’ve been the lucky man who found that job and I was accepted by the people of Leith, and it’s been brilliant.”