LEGEND-DELI in Market Place, Southend, is a little gourmet cafe bursting with ideas.

The diverse menu changes, sometimes twice on any given day, and its twists on classic cafe fare can be genuinely surprising.

Take, for example, the Ham-mer, a lunch dish which lays a juicy cut of home-cooked ham on a bed of garlic mushrooms and spring onions.

These ideas come from the creative mind of chef, and owner, Jason Finlay.

When this chef talks about food he does so at a machine gun speed.

“My family always say I have too many ideas,” Jason says.

“They’re always saying ‘stop and breathe’, but I’ve been thinking about this place and this menu for three years.”

Legend Deli is pitched as a “food revolution cafe”, which is not afraid to test the conventions of the traditional lunch market.

Jason, 33, describes himself as a restless, energetic and experimental chef, creating funky takes on gourmet foods.

This enthusiasm has led him from a career in finance to his off-the-wall cafe and it may even feature on TV, alongside one of his cooking heroes, Jamie Oliver, in 2014.

Jamie pitched up to Southend, with celebrity farmer Jimmy Doherty, to film an episode for the second series of Food Fight Club.

The pair met restaurateurs, cooks and traders from Southend and Leigh, with Jason among them.

“I’m not sure how much I’ll appear after the edit, but it was amazing to meet him,” Jason says.

“I got to sit round the table with him and came away with loads of ideas just from his energy.

“He puts you at ease and has done so much for cooking in this country.”

Jason’s earliest cooking hero was his mother, who he used to watch in the kitchen as he grew up in London’s East End.

He explains: “We were a real foodie family.

“We loved Christmas and making big meals. I always loved my food and was eating monkfish at the age of eight.

“I was into a lot of sport – weightlifting and boxing – so I always had to think about making my healthy foods tasty.”

But this passion for cooking would not become a professional pursuit for many years.

His kitchen alchemy was sidelined by careers in finance, investments and recruiting in the City.

That lucrative line of work took a big hit during the recession.

“The bottom fell out of everything I touched,” he says.

“I felt like I had the opposite of a Midas touch.

“I needed to do something else and what better than something with food, which I love.”

Switching career was a gamble.

He and his partner, Leanne Taylor, 32, had five little mouths to feed and pursuing his dream would mean taking on a minimum wage.

When they moved from London to Southend eight years ago, Jason marched into Clarence Yard bar and restaurant and asked for a job. He was hired to run the place and his foodie education began.

While he was there he noticed a small cafe across the road that he dreamt of taking over.

“I could see it was struggling, but I knew it could do better,” he says.

“I approached the owners, who had been there for 28 years, and asked for a price. We negotiated it down a bit.

“Two weeks later, I handed in my notice.”

It was all hands on deck to clean and refurbish the cafe, which Jason had already named Legend and designed the logo for in his head.

“We were on a really tight budget,” he explained.

“It got to a point when all our money had gone. We had £40 left in our bank.

“I said ‘we need to open now’.”

There was a slight false start, as Jason’s flurry of ideas struggled to find a clear direction and it initially began life as a deli boutique.

But eventually it found its stride.

“We want to be a great takeaway shop,” he says. “It’s gourmet food at cafe prices.”

The family-run business is also moving into catering for parties, buffets and functions.

Legend can seat just eight people inside and double that in the outside area if the weather is kind.

But it is the energy and food that Jason insists will keep the hungry punters coming back.

He sources ingredients locally, using Martin’s butchers, Woodford Meats and nearby bakeries.

All his dishes are homemade and the menu is startlingly diverse.

“We get foodies coming in and an eclectic mix of students, people who work in town and day-trippers,” Jason adds.

The menu remains creative and cheeky.

Dishes have cute names: The Hello Me, the Perfect Chick, the Falafella, Bubble and Chic.

Specials could include anything from southern fried chicken to brie and spinach bagels or Japanese katsui curry.

There are new additions almost everyday and the cafe also embraces weekly themes.

“We’re funky and off piste,” Jason says.

“Where else can you come in and get a takeaway chicken kiev or lasagne on your lunch break?

“We looked at what people were offering around us and did the opposite.”