Usk entrepreneur and hairdresser Phillip Mungeam, 62, talks to KATH SKELLON about his passion for music and reaching the final of Sky Living’s reality cooking show.
“I HAD no idea I was going to be a hairdresser or a businessman.
As a child my parents channelled me to being a musician as I played the violin.
I remember the first time I picked one up I was five. I played for my parents and will never forget it. I always knew that there was something else and that it wasn’t what I was going to do.
I got into the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain at 15 and was the only Welshman in it, which I was very proud of and was regarded as the leading violinist in Wales.
Everything was channelled for me to do music and I could see myself composing music, conducting orchestras and writing music for films.
I never ever thought I would be doing anything different. However, saying that when I was at King Henry VIII school in Abergavenny, my greater love was sport.
Every bit of time I had I was either playing football, cricket, running or rugby.
In the 70s I moved to London with a friend.
We didn’t have anywhere to stay so we slept rough at Euston Station while working in a hotel.
It was an interesting experience. There was an old bombed-out church called Centrepoint where we would queue up at night and get jam and tea and a blanket.
We had our own little area in Euston Station but got kicked out at 5.30am by the police and used to walk the streets.
I would sneak into the hotel in the early morning and get into the staff room and have a kip in the chair and sneak into the kitchen and eat the food that came back uneaten to keep myself going.
I studied music at college in Birmingham and became a teacher for two years. I had a great rapport with the children but I found it very insular.
I gave it up and ran a petrol station with a forecourt selling cars but there was no money in petrol and it failed.
I’ve always worked, even as a child I made extra money by doing a paper round, stacked shelves, cleaned windows and picked and sold winberries at Abergavenny Market.
I later worked on the roads on the extension of the M4, cleaned verges for the council and loved it. I learned so much about people.
After 10 years in Birmingham where I lived with my first wife I came home to Abergavenny.
I had several jobs including at Crickhowell Caravans and with Eric Davies, the furniture shop in Abergavenny, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I also worked as a peripatetic violin teacher, but as much as I love the violin it was teaching and I am not a teacher in a classroom.
I also worked on the Abergavenny Gazette in display advertising when my son, who is now 32 and a graphic designer, was born.
My wife and I later divorced and I met my second wife who had a hair dressing salon in the town.
I was there one day when she was short staffed. I was asked to do a blow dry and was told I had a natural ability as a hairdresser.
Within six months I had my own clientele.
We built the salon up to become the best in Abergavenny and got taken on by Tresemme as the Tresemme technical team travelling all over the country training hairdressers about the products and colouring techniques and doing shows.
I was nominated for hairdresser of the year two years running. To be up there within a few years of starting hairdressing was immense.
I worked on a show on HTV called House to House for three years where we decorated a room in their home and my ex-wife and I would do the make-up and me the hair. We would make them over and then do a big reveal on camera.
The cosmetic company Aveda approached me to work on the QVC shopping channel.
I spent three years promoting their products on live television in a studio in London.
At the same time the Celtic Manor Resort asked me to take over the salon when the hotel opened.
It was an exciting time. I had a big team there and we opened seven days a week for three years.
It was there that I met my third wife Giuliette. It was love at first sight.
We moved to Usk with her daughter Mair and rented a beautiful Tudor house. Mair is a fabulous loving daughter – beautiful like her mum.
In the same week that I left the Celtic Manor we moved house. Our youngest daughter Millie was born in 2001.
Giuliette was manageress of a home that cared for adults with learning and physical disabilities.
We invested in a partnership and eventually opened up our own home.
We now have five and have staff of 60.
I also opened a salon in Usk called The Room. It’s private, small, exclusive and the most amazing place to work. It’s rewarding and I enjoy spending time with people. We opened a domicillary care agency supplying staff to the care industry which we ran from an office next to The Room.
I set up Peruke Wigs after clients, diagnosed with cancer, came to me with their wigs and I couldn’t understand why the suppliers did not cut and style them for the client themselves.
I sourced the best wigs I could find and went to health service and said I would like to supply them.
We aim to replicate what they had with their own hair and give them the courage to walk out of their front door. It’s so rewarding.
You meet some wonderful and courageous people. Even when you are dealing with children they are so brave. I do get upset sometimes as it really gets to you.
We’ve since opened shops in Hereford and most recently in Cardiff.
There is no one else out there who does it like we do.
We cut the wigs, style them, shave their heads if needed as part of our service and go to their houses.
We now supply hospitals in Wales.
People ask me why I do so much, I have been driven to work since a child. I don’t ever want to slow down.
I recently became chairman of Usk Chamber of Trade. Our first meeting was to discuss Monmouthshire council’s proposal to introduce parking charges in the town.
We mounted a huge campaign opposing this and are compiling a whole report to MCC which will be factual not anecdotal.
I sit on the Usk Ball committee and have raised thousands for the primary school and for charity in three years.
I recently appeared on the Sky Living series My Kitchen Rules with a client of mine called Emma Evans.
We share a passion for cooking and set up the Secret Supper Clwb in 2012.
We were asked to audition for the show and represented Wales.
Filming lasted seven weeks. It was the hardest thing I have ever done but an absolute privilege.
We got to the final but lost by one point.
To experience working with Jason Atherton and Lorraine Pascale was a thrilling experience.
I’ve cooked before at dinner parties but when you have to prepare, cook and present it in an hour and a half the pressure is on.
I learned so much about food and cooking.
I would love to get involved in the food industry as a critic whether it be pubs or top restaurants I have a lot to offer to encourage and help. I don’t give negative criticism, it’s always positive and with the solution.
Something I enjoy doing is my one man show for charity.
I love being on the stage. It’s great fun, totally impromptu and people come away transformed on stage.
When I’m on stage I can mould the audience and can get them to do anything.
I have had such a varied life, I’ve done and achieved so much and enjoyed it. I can’t imagine retiring.”