As a private chef, one of the questions I get asked most often is, ‘Where do you get all your recipes from?’
In my dream world, I would respond by saying, ‘Why, I think them up entirely by myself each and every day. They come to me, just like that!’ *Clicks fingers*. But the sad truth is, that has never actually happened IRL. I desperately try to wrangle original dish ideas out of my brain each and every morning in the shower, but to no avail. I instead do what I imagine most people do, and spend that time cultivating a comprehensive to-do list for the day that I immediately forget upon re-entering the real world.
Being new to the food industry (only three years in), I still have to trawl various different resources for recipes, inspiration and ideas. These are some of the best pools I’ve dipped my toe into, in the hope of finding wondrous dishes to imitate.
As you well know, I love nothing more than posting photos of my food onto Instagram. Often my stories will get more of a hammering at work, but then I’ll remember I should probably post more on my grid, and then my stories get neglected…it’s a work in progress. But some of the best chefs in the world undoubtedly have the best Instagram pages. These are some of my favourites, whose dishes are oftentimes attempted, with varying degrees of success, to be re-created by moi.
His style of plating is just divine. Full of clean lines, elegance, and all the while remaining effortlessly natural. He does things to asparagus spears I can only dream of.
A fellow private chef, Heather’s food and photography is #goals. She creates dishes you can’t help but want to devour.
Geranium and Thyme
If you ever want to visually eat the rainbow, follow this chef. Her food is so vibrant, it positively screams goodness. Looking at her photos makes me want to rush to my local greengrocers and grab one of everything.
It used to be BBC Good Food, now it’s Great British Chefs. As in, BBC Good Food has historically been my first port of call when deciding what to cook for years before cheffing became a possible career path. But once the basics were mastered, in came Great British Chefs to fill the BBC shaped hole in my life. Their recipes are that little bit more technical, with more of an emphasis on how to plate the dish, making them perfect fodder for starters, mains and desserts to fill the menu plans that dominate my working life.
Never underestimate the power of a Waitrose recipe. Their calendar is up on my wall. The magazine goes straight in my basket as soon as it comes out every month. I drag my granny trolley to Belgravia’s Waitrose every morning without fail to do my shopping. I find their online recipes are especially useful for guests with dietary requirements. They do vegan & vegetarian really rather creatively.
Rachel is a wonderful food blogger and author who I’ve been following for years now. Her writing is brilliant. I look forward to her Weekly Love blogposts where she posts interesting articles from websites such as Food 52, links to other blogs and general unusual reads. Her food is always delicious, and the way she writes her recipes makes them easy to follow.
Sunday Papers & Magazines
Since moving out of the homestead, one of the things I love most about returning to Jersey over a weekend is access to every single Sunday paper and its accompanying magazine. They say that whichever section of a magazine you flick straight to, is the field in which you should be working. Personally, I can’t say I’ve ever flicked straight to the recipes section, because having slightly control freak tendencies means I can’t leave any article unread. But my recipe folder is fit to bursting with pages ripped out of these Sunday magazines. I treat myself to the Guardian Food magazine on Saturday, and the Mail on Sunday for YOU magazine. Equal parts for the recipes, for the editor being the wonderful Jo Elvin, and the code cracker puzzle.
The Modern Cook’s Year by Anna Jones is the one cookbook I own that I’ve made dishes from time and time again. Not only does every recipe make me want to make it, but the results are good enough that I want to keep making them. Her avocado, cardamom & lime smoothie is, quite honestly, the nicest drink I’ve ever drunk, and is to blame for the majority of my income going on the pricey green fruit. It’s so good, that I simply must post the recipe here for you all to try, immediately. You’re welcome.
Avocado, cardamom & lime smoothie – serves 1
- 1/2 avocado
- 1 lime, zested & juiced
- 2 cardamom pods, seeds only
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1/2 pear or green skinned apple
- 125ml milk of your choice
- 125ml water
- a couple of ice cubes
Chop, blend, and enjoy.
Anna Jones’ recipes are vegetarian, but happily include all the dairy under the sun. If you are a carnivore like me, don’t let this put you off. The recipes are complete meals in their own right, but make beautiful accompaniments to meat or fish. The book is split into seasons, with fascinating interludes on how to cook and eat mindfully, the importance of knowing the origins of your produce, and many other nuggets of useful information. Her ethos has inspired me to start buying organic produce, especially milk, and that when things get a bit ‘much’, it is often wise to re-set your body by going back to simpler foods for a spell. Her brown rice porridge is a dream for doing just that.
Persiana & Sirocco by Sabrina Ghayour are wonderful books full of vibrant dishes. I make her kukus time and time again (a kuku is basically a Middle Eastern frittata). Ottolenghi’s books are all fabulous. Plenty and Plenty More are great for vegetarian cooking, his original cookbook is best for meat and fish, and NOPI is full of slightly more advanced recipes that I only really attempted when I was working on the yacht, when I had lots of professional gadgets to play with. Leith’s How To Cook is fantastic for mastering the basics. Their quiche Lorraine is hard to beat.
Eating Out and Stages
Call it market research. Eating out at restaurants is the best way to see what is being cooked right now, be it using new techniques or pairing traditional fare with unusual flavours. Whilst is does tend to break the bank, it is my favourite way of getting ideas. Polpo inspired me to be more adventurous with fresh pasta, Twist made me want to be a bit more flamboyant with my flavour combinations, and frequent brunchings result in an excess of vegetable fritters, poached eggs and avocado.
Stages are when a chef works for free in a restaurant for a short while to gain experience. They are a great way to learn. elBulli in Spain, the famous, now closed, three Michelin starred restaurant, was famous for having a huge brigade of chefs, the majority of which were there working three month stages. Head chefs were permanently employed, but their workforce was primarily made up of young chefs who were honoured to play a part in such a groundbreaking kitchen. It looks like I have a free week coming up in September that I’d like to fill with a stage. When the dates are firmed up, my plan is to get in touch with Skye Gyngell’s Spring, or The River Cafe, to see if either will have me.
So there you have it. Where do you find your recipe inspiration? Hit me up, because no matter what, I’m always on the lookout for more.