Graham Pike obituary

·3 min read

My father, Graham Pike, who has died aged 82, was an entrepreneur and academic with an infectious enthusiasm for travel, aeroplanes, maps and stamps. His company Green Cuisine Food Products Ltd grew to become one of the country’s leading herb and spice packing businesses.

Born in London, the son of Bill Pike, manager of an autoparts company, and his wife, Pearl (nee Owen), who grew up in India, Graham spent his formative years in Leeds. His father’s wartime service in the RAF sparked in Graham a lifelong passion for aviation. Aged 17, he joined the Saunders-Roe aircraft company on the Isle of Wight as an apprentice engineer, going on to study aeronautical engineering at Southampton University, where he learned to fly.

In 1960 Graham’s irrepressible taste for adventure took him first to work in Canada, then across the US by car, before travelling by boat to Sydney, Australia where he completed a PhD in physics and met his future wife, Rhonda Jones, an occupational therapist.

In 1966 he hatched a plan to sail back to Britain in the Eilander, a battered old Victorian fishing ketch, with a small crew of fellow adventurers. With little sailing experience and virtually no money they island-hopped around the Pacific to New Guinea and Indonesia, working to pay their way. From Borneo, Graham and Rhonda continued their adventurous journey overland.

Arriving in London in late 1967, the couple first lived in a van inside a disused laundry, then in a caravan in the hold of the barge Ironsides, moored near Kew Bridge. When Graham took up a two-year postdoctoral research post in the Physical Chemistry Laboratory in Oxford, where he became a graduate member of St John’s College, they moved to Horspath, a village outside the city, married in 1969 and started a family. They spent a year, 1970-71, in Barcelona, where Graham taught maths, physics and chemistry.

On return to Britain they moved to rural Norfolk and Graham worked as a tutor for the newly established Open University. Inspired by their travels and the fact that Graham’s parents had lived in India, my parents had a love of cooking world cuisine. The range of ingredients available in Norfolk at that time was limited and Graham went to London to buy herbs and spices direct from the importers. The wholesale quantities were much more than needed for home use so he started selling the surplus. Before long it became apparent that this sideline was going to be more lucrative than remaining in academia.

In 1972 Graham started his own business supplying herbs and spices to shops, restaurants and the public. Early products included a successful range of mail-order curry-making kits, complete with accompanying recipes. The Green Cuisine factory was later established in Watton, Norfolk. Graham and Rhonda renovated the derelict Old Rectory in Foulden as a home for their growing family before finally settling in Norwich.

Graham rekindled his interest in sailing and had many boating adventures with his family on the Norfolk Broads. He was a long-term supporter of charities including the 1st Norwich Sea Scouts and Action Village India. He maintained his interest in travel and was always keen to explore new places with family and friends.

He is survived by Rhonda, their three children – my siblings, Alistair and Jules, and me – and three grandchildren.

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