Destination #FH Avenue
Welcome to Destination #FH Avenue
This is the place for businesses to be, and to be seen. This month I am shining the spotlight on these fabulous businesses…
I first met the talented Jill Williams at school. She was a few years above me and would always help the dance and drama teachers with the younger students. She made everything so much fun - you never really felt like you were working! She was a fabulous dancer and actress, but more importantly she was an incredible teacher. And nothing has changed!
After leaving school, Jill studied at the Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. Besides the singing, acting and dancing, Jill also trained to teach. Whilst studying at the college, Jill taught tap dancing classes and also helped direct their musicals and operas.
Jill graduated with first class honours in 1989 and literally walked straight into her first job at Bishop Vaughan Roman Catholic School, quickly working her way up to become head of department, putting on five big shows a year alongside teaching GCSE, A-Level drama and A-Level dance. Jill really loved her job. However, Jill had always dreamed of having her own theatre school.
Jill believes in the power of words, and if you say it and believe it - then it will happen. She has always said from being a young girl “I will have my own school”, over and over again. Jill says it is incredible to see her dreams become reality.
To make this dream a reality, Jill took a year off from teaching. This fitted in well for Jill as her daughter Amber was just 18 months old and this would let her spend much more time with Amber.
Jill started by holding some classes with many of her former pupils from Bishop Vaughan, with its feeder schools joining her. Within a few short months, the classes were full; so much so, there were now waiting lists to join.
This lead Jill to opening up more schools, starting in Morriston, followed by Pontardawe and Cockett. After reassessing the school’s venues due to so many students Jill amalgamated some schools and opened another. She currently has schools in Cockett, Pontardawe and West Cross, with 350 students taught over eight classes a week.
The ethos of the school is one of caring and taking care of everybody. Jill has a hands-on approach and the school is extremely family friendly, where everyone gets involved. They put on two shows a year, which can be tricky for Jill. Choosing the right show for the students, making sure the rights are available and so on. I was astounded at the amount of work which goes into staging a show when Jill explained the different elements it entails.
Class Act Theatre School’s name came about as Jill wanted the school to be classy and for it to be about acting and theatre. One day someone pointed out to her that the initials spelled out CATS. Now all the students affectionately refer to it as CATS.
Alongside running a successful theatre school, Jill has completed her MA and lectures at Cardiff University.
My son Oliver joined CATS about eight years ago, learning and developing so much with Jill’s expert guidance. He has performed in numerous shows including 13, Moby Dick the musical, and my all time favourite, Les Miserables. For me, that show put CATS in a totally different league; I have never felt so proud to have family and friends watch Oliver with his fellow talented and professional young actors perform. What a show!
I cannot stress enough just how incredible their productions are. They are a ‘must see.’ Uplifting, extremely entertaining and so professionally done. Make sure you get your tickets so you can sing and clap along to You’re The One That I Want, Summer Nights and Greased Lightning. See tomorrow’s stars today! Director: Jill Williams, Musical Director: Bethan Marks.
Grease The Musical will be Oliver’s final show with CATS before he leaves for London to continue his performing arts education. With this in mind I ask Jill how she feels when her students leave. She has mixed emotions. Although it breaks her heart to see them leave, it also brings her great joy and she looks on with pride as they move on to realise their dreams.
CATS isn’t just about drama. It’s about giving the students confidence and inspiration; learning life skills; encouraging them to look after and support each other; and to be positive and respect others. At CATS the students receive high quality training, with a supportive family feel and great camaraderie amongst the students.
Jill always drives away from a class thinking “I really enjoyed that. I love my job.”
What is her next dream? “To teach at the top London drama schools for half the week and return to Swansea for the other half to teach the CATS students” is her determined reply.
One of Jill’s first dreams was when she was just eight years old and on a sleepover with her friend Catherine Zeta Jones. She remembers them giggling in the dark and asking each other “what do you want to be when you grow up?’ Catherine said “I want to be an actress” and Jill replied, “I want to have my own theatre school”. And did they achieve their dreams? Well Catherine’s done alright! And Jill - yes - you have an amazing theatre school - one you should be so proud of! Your students are a credit to you and your schools go from strength to strength. And those other dreams of yours? Yes I’m sure they will come true too!
Although Jamie Evans was born in the UK, he and his family emigrated to the USA. While there Jamie studied at college to become a chef. He worked for many years in different restaurants, but then moved on to many different jobs in the construction industry as that was more lucrative. However, Jamie longed to return to the UK.
On his return he got a job in a bar and was offered a promotion to manager. This entailed spending time in the kitchen to cross train; which he enjoyed so much, he decided to stay in the kitchen and become a chef again.
Being a chef has always come easy to Jamie. He says he’s creative, knows what looks and tastes good, and he has very high standards.
When Jamie went to open Fat Yankee, he originally wanted a small cafe - open Monday to Friday - so he could spend time with his family; no more nights, no more weekends. But then he found the perfect premises in Woodfield Street, Morriston. They were a lot bigger than he’d originally been looking for, and so he says his ideas just got bigger and bigger! His thoughts were “If I’ve got all this space I may as well use it”, and so his idea snowballed!
The food is based on what Jamie experienced whilst growing up in the US. It’s simple, excellent quality using the best produce possible, cooked to perfection.
Sometimes Jamie thinks he has too much to choose from, yet the menu continues to grow as more and more ideas come to him.
Fat Yankee is known for their crazy ‘Monster Burgers’ and their ‘Big Breakfast’. They also do ‘Muscle Food’ and prepared meals for gym and healthy eating enthusiasts’. This is music to my ears - I can eat healthily in the Diner, or order healthy takeaways all week, then on my cheat day I can treat myself by devouring one of their fabulous burgers! Win-win! Jamie says that while a lot of customers come to Fat Yankee with the admirable intention of ordering something healthy they often end up ordering some of the naughtier stuff!
Jamie is toying with the idea of opening during the evening as demand for this is high. He also has aspirations of opening another Fat Yankee in Swansea City centre. He has no clear recollection of where the name Fat Yankee came from, “It just came off the top of my head - it just sounded good!” So he went with it, saying it now makes perfect sense, fitting in well with the delicious, enormous meals on offer which Jamie says were influenced by food he had seen on the television - especially Man V Food. This is proving to be a winner for Jamie as he is capitalising on something which has become a phenomenon.
Besides hoping to open a diner in the city centre, Jamie plans to have a Fat Yankee burger van which would cover Swansea and its surrounding areas to introduce people to his delicious goodies.
Another aspect of Jamie’s business that is becoming huge is the ‘Muscle Food’. As an increasing number of the population becomes more health conscious, watching what they eat, and looking for tasty, healthier options, Jamie is able to cater for everyone’s needs.
Once you become a customer of Fat Yankee you will find yourself going back for more.
There’s a fantastic menu to tempt you and work your way through. I was spoilt for choice as I browsed the menu. BBQ Pulled Pork, Philly Cheesesteak, Buffalo Chicken Cheesesteak and a Big Tex Burger. Sides include Mac & cheese, Mozzerella sticks and Nachos. Jamie says the most popular meal ordered at Fat Yankee is chicken, eggs and sweet potato fries.
As if that little lot didn’t whet my appetite or tempt me enough, next up on my reading list was their Breakfast Menu. Uh oh, now I was in big trouble! Yankee pancakes and the Fat Bastard Breakfast! Just don’t tell on me to Tara!!
There were salads galore, wraps and baguettes, plus a whole section of ‘Muscle Food’ with grilled and cajun chicken, beef chilli and salmon, all of which are served with salad, mixed bean salad, steamed veg and sweet potato. The options are endless. Best of all you can have them prepped and packed fresh for you every day.
Jamie likes to mix things up and I was particularly impressed when he launched his ‘Six Nation’ monster burgers - a different one for every country. You need to be a strapping rugby player just to be able to pick one up let alone eat it!
With American Independence Day approaching - 4th of July in case you’re wondering - Jamie has created the ‘Independence Day Burger’: a double cheeseburger, streaky bacon, mac ‘n’ cheese, mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce topped with gherkins! All I can say is WOW - bring it on!
If you have a sweet tooth Fat Yankee has many different cupcakes to choose from including Key lime and coconut and the mini jammie dodger. And for the traditional American breakfast lovers, there’s even a maple syrup and bacon cupcake! And if that’s not enough to tickle your fancy, you can take your pick from a great selection of pancakes, or their featured ‘cake of the day’.
Opening times: Monday-Friday 9am-4pm; Saturday and Sunday 9am-3pm.
I strongly recommend a visit to this delectable diner where you can indulge in delicious, freshly-cooked, fabulous quality, American-themed food. However I must caution you - make sure you don’t eat beforehand - these dishes are absolutely enormous and you will want to do them justice
You and your tastebuds will thank me for this. Bon appetit!
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