Sunday, 3 January 2010

My Culinary Influences... Part 1.

Well after a fairly uneventful trip from Manchester down to Woking today, I have moved into my diggs, met my new house-mates; Venus, Mark, Liam and Mark and pretty much unpacked. Only two days until my course starts at Tante Marie on the 6th January when I can get down to business with this blog and working towards "its" goal as well as "my" goal. Until then I thought I would share with you some of the chefs and programs that have influenced me over the years in one way or another.

As I said in my first post, I grew up watching the usual cooking shows that were on TV about 15 years ago you probably watched. The one that probably got most viewing time would have been “Ready Steady Cook” because it was on shortly after returning from school. Of course my favourite chef on that show was Ainsley Harriott, and why wouldn't he be! He is an imposing figure, full of flamboyance and flair, especially when it comes to his usage of good old “Percy Pepper” and “Suzie Salt”... good times indeed. However I cannot give credit to “Ready Steady Cook” for furthering my interest in food massively, I found it entertaining but never had the urge to rush off to the kitchen and cook after a show finished, it did indeed keep the spark of culinary intrigue alive within me, so deserves some credit for doing that.

Most credit would instead have to go to that fresh faced, scruffy haired Essex boy that burst onto our screens all those years ago when I was 16 or 17 years of age. With his enthusiastic and liberal use of a language I, and it would seem a large portion of the UK's population had not heard before, it was a challenge just to decipher what he was on about let alone keep up with what seemed like a revolutionary cooking style. You see around that time the culinary stalwart for the home cook was a certain Delia Smith, some of you may remember her for teaching us all how to boil an egg, first by boiling water! Genius! and others may remember her as Norwich City Football Clubs chairman and this famous half-time rant at her own fans when she thought they weren't cheering the team enough!

I was never a fan of Delia Smith, not because of her food, from what I could tell it looked great, it was more to do with her (no offence D). Being in my mid-teens it was clearly evident that this show was for my mothers viewing, and as with all my mothers TV viewing it was not to my taste. It didn't help that she looked like one of my school teachers, and watching one of her shows felt like it was “class time” again. Another reason I found to dislike Delia was that at the time of her becoming really big, I was 16 working in the local Sainsburys supermarket whilst doing my A-Levels. The amount of irate customers I personally had to deal with venting their fury that we were sold out of Sea-bass or Jerusalem Artichokes or whatever she had been cooking the night before, within ten minutes of the store opening, was quite unbelievable... not least because I worked on the pet food isle well away from anything Delia would have been promoting in her show! Alas, her shows were a phenomenal success and I got to see proof of this first hand in the buying habits of the public after her latest show had aired, and see just what a force she was in the home cooks culinary world. In full disclosure I have to admit that I have visited her website on a number of occasions when I have wanted a recipe that I could rely on, and one recipe I keep going back for is her Ultimate Carrot Cake with Mascarpone, Fromage Frais and Cinnamon Icing just don't try and make me watch one of her shows! Try it out you wont be disappointed!

Hmmm... I seem to have digressed somewhat, where was I? Oh yes, Jamie Oliver of course. That somewhat dishevelled, seemingly whimsical bag of lispiness who burst onto our screens by “chucking” a load of “clobber” into a pan, chatted to some posh sounding women off screen, dipped his fingers in the sauce and then served up something that apparently tasted “pukka”! This certainly wasn't the dulcet tones of Delia coming from my TV that's for sure, and that was part of the appeal to me. Jamie seemed to be just a few years older than I was and so I felt I could relate to him more than I could with any other TV chef. More so it was his cooking style rather than his use of the English language that I found to my liking. No longer were we shackled to a recipe in order to cook our dinner, now we shall put as much or as little of what we like into our food. You like it spicy? Bang some more chilli in. Not a fan of rosemary? You can use Thyme instead. Don't like fish? Will go well with chicken too! For the first time it felt like we were in control of our own dinner and there was hardly a measuring spoon or set of scales to be seen anywhere, it was amazing! It seemed like we were given permission to tinker and take ownership of our kitchens, and I, like so many others never looked back!

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2. when I will discuss the effect of Gordon Ramsay and anything else that meanders into my head....   Part 2 click here!



  1. Can't say I agree with you about Jamie, I simply find him irritating but maybe that's age related! It's a pity Ramsay swears so much. I don't mind it, but it does tend to put people off and cover up one of his best attributes - his management skills which are outstanding. My personal favourite among the TV chefs is Rick Stein, partly because through watching him, I have been introduced to and tried so many wonderful fish.

    Congratulations again on this second part of your blog. Like the first it is well and intelligently written and a pleasure to read. I feel I know you through your writing, which is a talent in itself.

  2. Cheers for the positive comments Brightlight. I know what you mean about Jamie, he has started to irritate a little but for me its probably due to over familiarity than anything else. As for Gordon... I suggest you avoid my next post.. or at least don't click the link!

    Rick Stein is great, never seen a chef so dedicated to the fruits of the sea. Full of passion for the freshest produce and constantly encourages us to get buying some of the lesser known fish so they don't get sent to France and Spain where they are revered.

  3. Very true words about Jamie, Dylan. I don't think he gets enough credit for inspiring this generations' young chefs (or for increasing them!).


I look forward to reading your comments whether they are good, bad or indifferent!