What’s your very first memory of food?
Most probably dhal and roti, or a packet of chocolate-covered raisins.
What’s the first recipe you properly learned to make?
What do you like to do to relax?
Chill with my nan and the cats in the garden at my mum’s house.
What’s the one dish you can’t live without?
What ingredient would you take to a desert island with you?
You can have a one-off dinner party on your island… who would you invite?
What inspired you to set up your hospitality jobs hub Countertalk?
I spent way too long working in jobs I didn’t enjoy and wanted other people to see that REALLY good jobs in the hospitality world DO exist. And it makes all the difference, not only to your headspace, but to your career and future.
And can you tell us about Countertalk SPACES?
Countertalk SPACES has been a long time coming! It’s a platform to connect empty spaces with pop ups, supper clubs and events. It has been designed to remove the stress and pressure of finding somewhere with your exact needs by making sure all of that information is provided from the get-go, things like inventory, various licensing info, floor plans, location etc. meaning, these events can happen a lot easier.
For the spaces, it opens them up to a new audience and brings in revenue. And for the residents, it helps facilitate more events and takes away a lot of the back and forth that can come with organising a food event.
For me, running pop ups and supper clubs throughout my career has been an excellent way of reaching a new audience and testing out new ideas.
What’s your favourite thing to bake at the moment?
Cherry and ricotta cake or my lazy person’s chocolate cake.
What has been the most formative experience of your career?
Landing a job at St. JOHN midway through my career as a chef. It saved me and changed my whole perspective on cooking, baking, ingredients and … life. Countertalk wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t “seen the light” at St. JOHN.
It’s 8pm, you’ve just got home. What are you rustling up for tea?
I’m not, it’s definitely a takeaway.
Is there anything about the food industry that bugs you? We’d like to hear your thoughts…
Restaurants that open as part of vanity projects. Too many of those places don’t treat their staff properly, and do not contribute positively to sustaining a good working culture in hospitality. There’s a public perception that opening a restaurant will make you rich, that’s not true.
Can you tell us a bit more about your current projects?
I’ve just finished filming a new TV show that will air next year; a good one for food and restaurant lovers. I’m also about to go into filming for my third year as a judge on Junior Bake Off.
I like to keep my online cookery school, Damson Jelly Academy, very much alive throughout the year with recipes on the blog, chatting with the students, answering questions and running demos in schools.
Do you have any career goals you’ve yet to fulfill?
Committing and making a decision to either open my own restaurant or abandon the entire idea completely. I can’t stay in limbo forever.
What advice would you give a young person trying to start out their career in food?
Plunge yourself in the deep end and be committed to it! Don’t be afraid of hard work, embrace it and go the extra mile always. It pays off more than you realise.
Find out more about Countertalk here.