‘The kids look up to us’ - Friends show the way to town’s youngsters with new business

Marcel Nembhard and Joe Palmer, owners of Celery's Fusion Food based at the Abbey Neighbourhood Cent

Marcel Nembhard and Joe Palmer, owners of Celery's Fusion Food based at the Abbey Neighbourhood Centre in Thetford. Photo: Emily Thomson - Credit: Archant

Two entrepreneurs are offering a shining example to troubled youngsters after turning their lives around and starting a new business which has got tongues wagging in a Norfolk town.

Joe Palmer, Jessica Saker and Marcel Nembhard, from Celery's Fusion Food, which has opened at the Ab

Joe Palmer, Jessica Saker and Marcel Nembhard, from Celery's Fusion Food, which has opened at the Abbey Neighbourhood Centre, on the Abbey Estate, in Thetford. Photo: Emily Thomson - Credit: Archant

Joe Palmer, 31, and Marcel Nembhard, 30, grew up in Thetford and have launched Celery’s Fusion Food, a catering business at the Abbey Neighbourhood Centre.

The business is on home turf for the pair, where they admit to having had a few scrapes as children.

“I grew up on the Abbey Estate and we weren’t the best-behaved young lads,” Mr Palmer said.

“It is a great community with a lot of community spirit but there is not much going on around here, especially for younger kids.

Sesame chicken burge from Celery's Fusion Food based at the Abbey Neighbourhood Centre in Thetford.

Sesame chicken burge from Celery's Fusion Food based at the Abbey Neighbourhood Centre in Thetford. Photo: Joe Palmer - Credit: Joe Palmer


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“I had a bit of a rougher path than my business partner and I got into a bit of trouble. It was only a couple of years ago we both started speaking and decided we wanted to do something different with our lives.

“We both love eating food and cooking food and when I went away I did a cooking qualification, so we got together and we came up this idea.”

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Since starting the business from Mr Palmer’s home at the start of the year, the pair now rent the café at the centre, owned by Keystone Trust.

With mouth-watering burgers, chicken wings and wraps available and flavours inspired from all over the world, Mr Nembhard said they have been non-stop since officially opening at the start of the month.

Marcel Nembhard and Joe Palmer, owners of Celery's Fusion Food based at the Abbey Neighbourhood Cent

Marcel Nembhard and Joe Palmer, owners of Celery's Fusion Food based at the Abbey Neighbourhood Centre in Thetford. Photo: Emily Thomson - Credit: Archant

But Mr Palmer and Mr Nembhard also hope to act as role models for youngsters on the estate, to help them choose a “better path”.

Mr Nembhard: “I feel like we are building something positive and people look at me in a better light now.

“A lot of the kids around here are happy to see someone who is from the area doing something different. You just have to show them a good way.”

Ricky Aylott, who works in community development for Keystone, who has lived on the estate for more than 40 years, said: “I knew Joe and Marcel really well, they used to hang around out here.

Marcel Nembhard and Joe Palmer, owners of Celery's Fusion Food based at the Abbey Neighbourhood Cent

Marcel Nembhard and Joe Palmer, owners of Celery's Fusion Food based at the Abbey Neighbourhood Centre in Thetford. Photo: Emily Thomson - Credit: Archant

“So, when they said they stared up their own catering business I thought I really want to champion this because to me that is what Keystone and community is about.

“Since they started here they have been really popular. Their food is amazing and I am really chuffed for them – I think they are going to do really well.”

The pair both attended Rosemary Musker High School in Thetford, but Mr Palmer said he was kicked out in year ten and later on in his life found himself in trouble with the law.

But looking back on his adolescence, Mr Palmer said he wish he had taken his education more seriously.

“ I didn’t have a role model in my life and I was hanging around the wrong people which led me down the wrong path,” he said.

“But what going away taught me was that I didn’t want to live that life anymore.

“There is so much life you miss, you miss out on family things and the little things like going shopping. Your freedom is taken away from you.

“The younger kids around here look up to us now and it’s good to see that they are willing to listen. When we were growing up we had none of that.

“They come in here now and I tell them to stay in school because from my point of view I wish I had done the things that I am doing now when I was their age - just think where we would be.”

Their businesses success comes just as the country goes into the second national lockdown this year, but Mr Palmer said they will carry on doing a delivery service throughout.

“We are really thankful for everyone supporting us,” he added. “We didn’t really expect to take off the way we have.

“Now the world is our oyster.”

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