THEY say you should never read your reviews, but one chef in Taunton not only reads them but devours as they make his week if his customers are giving him the thumbs up for his tasty jacket potatoes.

The chef in question is Mark Watts who runs Spud-Shack on Fore Street in Taunton.

Mark has been running his own business since October 2016.

He used to work as a radio controller on Wyvern FM in Worcester and then co-ordinating television ratings but he was made redundant in June 2016.

When this news hit him, he decided he wanted to go into business for himself and be his own boss. It was a gamble to take and a big leap of faith in himself but he wanted to make his business a success.

Taking his redundancy cash, Mark, 43, put his money where his mouth was and took his passion for cooking into the world of takeaways.

He said: "I put all my redundancy money into it plus my savings and this was literally a roll of the dice.

"When I started I worked seven days a week and even started making breakfasts.

"I originally thought my business would be one third on breakfast and two thirds on lunch but breakfasts did not work so I concentrated on lunch.

"I knew it was always going to take a year to get the business up and going properly.

"I figured I would have to work double the hours to start making money.

"Before I started I got advice from the Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS) and from different traders around the UK of what I needed to do and what things I should avoid."

He said one of the things he is getting used to is customers saying how much they enjoyed his cooking.

Mark said: "I enjoy cooking but I only used to do it as a hobby.

"I am still getting used to people saying they liked it after paying for their meals."

The Spud-Shack offers people the chance to buy a jacket potato for £2.50 and then build their own from a variety of fillings.

Included in the choice is beef chilli, vegetable curry, Coronation chicken, tuns, tuna mayo, coleslaw, freshly grated Somerset mature cheddar cheese, Heinz baked Beans, streaky bacon, sour cream, red onion and grated carrot.

Mark explained a lot of what he does in customer drive. One of the innovations he brought in was to provide forks and knifes made from vegetable starch as they can be composted and therefore can be recycled.

He said he is in business to help people and feels very much part of the community.

He said: "I have got to know a lot of people in the area like the other traders.

"This job is helping make me the happiest I have ever been. I am doing something I want to do and I am doing it by myself. In the past I have been working hard for other people, now I am working hard for my customers.

"I worked hard to get the trailer ready and passed my Level Three hygiene training.

"When I got my five star rating I cried was so happy, knowing all the effort I had put into getting it right.

"Two inspectors came out and took three hours checking my trailer and all the equipment.

"Now I go through a routine every day to make sure I do everything right and to keep everything clean.

"As long as I can grow the business then I can see myself doing this job for the next 10 years.

As a cook, Mark said his ethos is to make most of the fillings himself and to try them out himself to make sure they taste good.

He works Tuesday to Saturday as on Monday he spends the day making his fillings and getting all the stock ready for the week ahead.

Mark said: "A lot of my customers are officer workers who come out and get a bite to eat for lunch.

"I have a lot of repeat customers and I am delighted when someone comes here and tells me my friend got a jacket potato and filling here and really enjoyed it so I thought I would give it a go.

"It is good to get these word of mouth referrals.

"I do a different special every day and this has proved popular.

"Some work and some don't but it is all about trying.

"I source all the potatoes myself and like to use Somerset Mature Cheddar as one of the toppings.

"The perfect jacket potato needs to have crispy skin, it should be light and fluffy when you cut it open and you should insure it has been well pricked with a fork to let all the steam out.

"I cook my potatoes at 170c for one and a quarter hours to one and a half hours.

"One of the hardest things is to judge how many potatoes are needed every lunch hour. I would rather have 10 too many than disappoint a customer as if I do they will not come back.

"None of the potatoes are wasted as I know someone with a pig farm so those which are not used or sold go to the pigs.

"What makes my week is if a new customer comes along and then writes a good review on my Facebook page (Tauntonspud) and says they will be coming back for more.

"Then I know I have had a good week."