A FORMER leading light in West Fife's licensing trade has turned his hand to food writing.

Tom Johnston has been responsible for securing licenses for pubs and restaurants across the country.

After retiring from the role – which saw him a familiar figure at licensing board meetings in Dunfermline – several years ago, he is currently sharing his food knowledge through his website, Tom's Food!

His Tom Cooks! section includes a variety of recipes, Tom Eats! has restaurant reviews while his new, On The Side! section offers a range of food news and ideas.

As well as helping to fill in his time during lockdown – he has written over 120 columns in the last year – the website allows Tom, 66, to fulfill his dream job of being a restaurant reviewer.

"I have always been interested in cooking and eating out over the years," he explained. "When I retired I had an idea for a wee business. I used to do a whole lot of licensing work.

"I had the idea of providing a licensing service for other lawyers and started a company. I knew nothing about websites but I knew a 13 year-old who did.

"The Ormidale licensing service website was set up. After a few months, I thought I was having far to much fun being retired.

"My dream job was to be a restaurant reviewer – I had learned enough from the 13 year-old to put another page on the website and started to post reviews from there."

His Tom Cooks! pieces follows on from cookery tuition he received in his younger days.

"When I went off to uni, my mum wrote me a tongue-in-cheek cook book. I was off for a bit after a hip operation and my sons said why don't you write a cook book for us the way granny did for you.

"I wrote a book and I quite enjoyed that. Writing recipes is not as easy people might think. I started the Tom Cooks! feature and that carried on.

"I had a lot of contacts with the licensed trade including restaurants and so on and, over the years, some chefs when I was starting off were very generous with their time. I would ask what did I do wrong.

"Bill Kerr, who was twice Scottish Chef of the year, I would ask how did you make that and then I would go away and and give him pelters because my version was not as good as his.

"After I retired, I sat down and did a brain storm of things I might want to do. One of the things was culinary skills. There were so many things I could not do.

"I went on a two week intensive course which taught me so much. Before then, I had never made a loaf of bread now I make 95 per cent of the bread that I eat."

During his working life, Tom started out in Edinburgh before moving to his father's business in Lochgelly. After establishing himself as a specialist in the licensing field, he moved to Young and Partners and worked in their Dunfermline office.

He produced books on the field and wrote regular articles for the Law Society Journal and has also been involved in the Fife Licensed Trade Association where he served as both chairperson and secretary.

Although much has changed in the trade over the years, Tom said the principles had stayed the same.

"When I retired, the standard of licensing boards was as high as it had ever been," he said. "New legislation came in in 2005 which actually was very good for my business. The whole process of getting a new licence was pretty complicated and a lot of people who had doubled up and done a bit of licensing said we are not going to do this so I got a huge amount of work.

"You really needed to know what you were doing. Every licensing board in Scotland had different procedures. It became very specialist."

When making his regular appearances in licensing board meetings across the area, Tom, who lives in Edinburgh, said he made every effort to ensure the occasions were not dull.

"Many cases you are really making the same point and writing about the same point and the same subject over and over again," he added.

"For people coming to listen to all this stuff, I basically thought that if you brighten things up and raise a smile, then they would use their discretion and give you a decision in your favour."

Tom's website can be found at https://ormidalels.com.