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Barry can hardly recall a time when food wasn’t the center of his life. Born into a large family with four siblings in a small English town in Yorkshire, Barry was certainly the most food-obsessed of the clan. In search of greater opportunity, Barry and his mother moved to the United States when he was 13 years old. His father remained in Yorkshire for two years where he worked as an optician, and then joined the rest of the family in New York City.
Barry proved to be a hard worker from a young age – as a teenager, he picked up a job washing dishes, and then worked his way through the ranks at restaurants until he became a chef – a profession he loved for the next 50 years. “My joy has always been cooking,” he says.
After training at The Culinary Institute of America, Barry ran the kitchen at a country club in Florida, and then earned the position of Executive Chef at a yacht club in Newport, Rhode Island. “That was when people thought we were cooks, not chefs.” One of Barry’s proudest moments was when he cooked for Dolly Parton at a fancy restaurant in Hawaii.
When Barry’s mother and biggest supporter found out she was dying of cancer, she and Barry planned an adventurous trip around the world. Barry was grateful to join his mother on her final voyage, especially since his father was unable to accompany her as he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
Barry can still remember every single meal the two had during their journey. He loved exploring different countries and experiencing local flavors and cuisines – and the creativity that came from them, often wandering markets for hours to discover new ingredients. Inspired by foreign delicacies after his travels were over, Barry opened up two different Asian fusion restaurants while living in Phoenix during the 1970s.
To get that delivery every single day makes you feel a little better inside.
He eventually returned to the place he loved most, New York City, to work as a personal chef for the city’s elite, including Leona Helmsley. Ironically, she was one of his favorite employers over the years. Barry still beams with pride at what he calls the highlight of his career: a blind tasting at the New York Yacht Club where he won all three categories.
In the midst of his thriving culinary career, Barry fell in love and married. Throughout their years together, the pair had three children. The harsh demands and long hours Barry put into his job affected his family. He admits that his marriage failed and he was an absent father because his heart was with his role as a chef. Since separating from his wife, Barry has been isolated from his whole family. His grown children seldom visit the Upper East Side apartment he has lived in for the past 17 years – and Barry spends the majority of his days alone.
Sadly, his career ended abruptly ten years ago when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. What began as an almost unnoticeable tremor in Barry’s hand has become 26 pills a day costing $300 a month. Once able to prepare a delicious dish in just a few minutes, Barry now has an unsteadiness that makes it impossible to stand over a stove simply to boil an egg.
Barry was already managing daily insulin injections for diabetes when he received his Parkinson’s diagnosis. For a time, he could use a cane to walk to the corner grocery store. But as the cost of food and his vital medicine continued to rise, Barry came to rely on Citymeals. “To get that delivery every single day makes you feel a little better inside,” he notes positively.
Now unable to maintain his balance, Barry depends on a walker even to get around his small apartment. Meanwhile his kitchen – full of knives, pots and tools acquired over a lifetime of cooking – sits unused. Although nothing satisfies him like working in the kitchen, Barry now practices sketching and different creative forms of art therapy to pass his time.