Former Norwich Big Issue seller enjoying his new lease of life as a chef
- Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017
A former Big Issue seller said he has been given a new lease on life after being offered a job at a restaurant he stood outside while selling the magazine.
Naily Coltman, 45, moved to Norwich two years ago to be closer to his daughter and grandchild.
He battled to find work and for seven months lived in a tent before finally finding a place in a hostel.
He started selling the Big Issue outside Gonzo's Tea Room in London Street to earn money.
'I didn't want my daughter to know I was a Big Issue seller so chose that spot because it was far from her house,' he said.
He soon got on speaking terms with Gonzo's owner Brad Baxter and his brother Mike.
'They started sending cups of tea out to me and I got to know everyone working there. They were all very friendly and made me feel welcome whenever I came in.
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'I remember one day last winter when it was chucking down and I hadn't sold anything - Mike came out and bought all the copies off me so I could go. I was so grateful.'
On another occasion the brothers offered him some part time work varnishing the bar.
'Then one afternoon they asked me if I was interested in some pot washing work. It was 22 hours over weekends to start with and guaranteed money so I immediately accepted it.'
Mr Baxter said: 'He was always super friendly and we wondered how he had got to the point in his life that he had. We didn't ask any questions though.'
He said they had needed a dish washer and approached Mr Coltman.
'We gave him a trial period and he worked super hard. After about three months we had someone from our kitchen leave and we asked him if he'd like to get involved in the cooking side of things.
'He said he was up for it and has been working in the kitchen for about four months as a chef in training.'
A fork lift driver by trade, Mr Coltman said he had never given much thought to a career as a chef.
'But I've really enjoyed it so far. I report to the head chef and assist with cooking. This has really helped my confidence and given me a new lease on life.
'I really can't thank the two brothers enough for what they have done for me.'