24 Sussex Drive

Ben Collins reveals how he ended up meeting the Prime Minister and First Lady of Canada at their residence, 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa

In line behind 200 or so people I did everything I could not to draw attention to myself, though given that I was the only person in line wearing anything other than a suit, this I knew was always going to be an uphill struggle...

Then just as I thought I had been successful in my plight to remain unnoticed I was approached by an official who signalled for me to leave the line at once and follow right behind him.

As I came to realise
what was about to happen my heart began to race. But as the walls of my ribcage felt like they were ready to give way, pressure too was building from the back of my head where with every step I took it felt like I gained an extra ten pairs of eyes becoming glued to watching my every move in the want of knowing what was going on.

Then as I approached the front of the queue I purposefully slowed my pace to little more than a crawl with the hope of biding some time to regain some composure.

"Wait there please" said another official in a firm voice.

I stopped right alongside a man who was perhaps fourth or fifth in the queue.

"Right, you can come to the front now."

So I took a deep breath and whilst moving forward those last few paces I glanced back to realise that I had completely failed to maintain a low profile with many people still looking over trying to figure out how I was able to skip past 200 waiting people. Finally, I cautiously overtook the two gentlemen at the very front of the queue where foolishly I made an attempt to smile without appearing smug, something that in hindsight may have been a little ambitious.

Perhaps picking up on my awkward attempt at being graceful, the first official took a step closer and said whilst looking at them both:

"This guy has been cooking for you all day so he's getting fast tracked."

They smiled and agreed but I knew as well as they did that they had little say in the matter. I smiled once more, though this time making no effort to hide how smug I felt.

"OK... if you'd like to step forward"

And as I took my step forward the Prime Minister looked up and asked:

"Where are you from?"

Confidently, I replied "I'm from England" which is when I heard one of the officials speak up and say:

"Mr Prime Minister... this chef has come all the way from England and has a flight back to the UK tonight so I have brought him up to the front of the line."

"Yes, I can hear the accent" the Prime Minister said with a little smile.

I smiled back and then looking up at the camera I waited for the flash trying my hardest to avoid blinking.

And after a couple of flashes that was that.

"It was a real pleasure to meet you both" I said and with a gleaming smile I walked off back into the crowd.

Alongside the Prime Minister and First Lady of Canada at 24 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Canada

Now I have to say there are very few photos in which I will profess to looking happy but this is most definitely one of them. And not because the Canadian Prime Minister is an idol or because we share the same political views, but because in that exact moment I thought to myself...
Here I am, standing on the bank of the Ottawa River in the garden of 24 Sussex having an official photograph taken with the Prime Minister and First Lady of one of the most developed countries in the World. You know what... this is a pretty cool moment 
And a moment I am sure I will never forget.

But the question I am sure you are now asking is just how on Earth did I end up here?

Well long story short but a few weeks ago I was talking to a man who would eventually turn out to be the personal chef to the Prime Minister and after enquiring if I had ever worked in a kitchen or used a knife, he asked if I fancied lending a hand at an event he was preparing for. Needless to say, but I jumped at the chance.

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So on Tuesday morning I am greeted by Tim at the gates of 24 Sussex Drive and after being led past a dozen security men find myself standing in the home kitchen of the Prime Minister which I have to admit was just a little bit surreal.
So many jokes, not enough time

In the morning that followed I spent my time helping out the pastry chef in preparing over 600 desserts before receiving a tour around part of the house which lucky for me included the opportunity to check out the official dining room as well as take a nosey around his office, before on the way back to the kitchen signing the guestbook.

Then during service itself I was mainly involved as a server but half way through I was asked if I would cook perhaps five dozen sausages on the BBQ, something that in hindsight I should have probably said no to because whilst standing there all I could think of was the potential headlines:

"Government on red alert after British traveller poisons 60"

But rest assured, having waited several days until after the event to post this I am now quite confident they were all cooked through!

Potential poisoning aside, I have to say that this has been a really great experience and am hugely thankful to Tim for the opportunity. And you know, that's the best thing about this trip... because when everything changes so often, you are left with no idea what waits for you around the corner and when I think about the amazing experiences I have had and people I have met in just these first three months, it honestly makes my hairs stand up on end to think what the future might hold.

Exciting times, I'm sure you'll agree.