What is Get Cooking? And where did it all begin? Well, to answer that I need to give you a bit of my own personal history, and take you back to 1993.
I was living in London, doing the daily grind. Holding down an office career: long hours but great perks, and pretty good pay. Perfect for some, but not for me. Minutes turned to days and days to hours as I went through the motions of a career that wasn’t meant to be.
So what to do to relieve the stress? Go to the gym? Well yes, I did. But it wasn’t enough. Change jobs? I wasn’t sure how. What did I love to do? Well, I loved to cook. Always had. And so I began to cook, every day. And I discovered that when I cooked the stress melted away.
London back then was no hotbed of gourmet fare: not yet. But it was on its way. The newspapers were beginning to celebrate the careers of the UK’s fledgling celebrity chefs, and London was beginning to sizzle with new and exciting flavours, aromas and tastes.
And I discovered Books for Cooks, a foodie mecca, a tiny space, teaming, floor to ceiling, with books. About what you say? About food. Yes, all of them. And wine of course! And on many a day, if you were lucky, you’d spot one of those burgeoning celeb cooks and could spy out which books had caught their fancy too.
And upstairs? A cooking school, still in its infancy. So I began to take days off and instead of the tired commute to the office, I’d head for London’s Notting Hill and three hours of food, glorious food.
I can remember my first class as if it was yesterday. Carla Tomasi taught us, a class of just six. We made fresh pasta, and risotto. I’d never tasted risotto, it wasn’t standard restaurant fare back then. It was alchemy in a pot, simple but perfect ingredients lovingly stirred into life. And I was hooked.
I’ve just googled an article on Carla from that time. Originally from Rome, she was one of a group of pioneering chefs cooking in London pubs, the beginnings of a new wave of Gastropubs, now an established constituent of the UK’s dining scene. Carla was cooking at the Peasant, and this is what Emily Green of The Independent had to say:
“I know Ms Tomasi slightly and admire her a great deal. This is not to say she is a perfect chef. Her food can be rough, too rough. Her rocket salads can be so peppery as to bring tears to your eyes, the crust of her country bread so hard that your teeth crack.
Still, she cooks real food with the best of ingredients. It is vividly flavoured, distinct in texture and generous in quantity. Moreover, at least half is usually vegetarian. She treats fish, poultry, game and beef respectfully and with skill. The care shows even when she puts chorizo on a plate of antipasti – sliced correctly, at an angle.”
I’d give you more, but Carla’s story probably means more to me than to you! (But read on about Carla if you’d like).
Reading Ms. Green’s review I’m back in 1993, having my epiphany and ready to make my big change.
I saved my pennies …. and my pounds! And I gave up that office job for a year at London’s Le Cordon Bleu. A year of butter, cream, foie gras …. of all things French. It was as far from Carla’s perfect, simple food as you could get. But it was a solid grounding in culinary techniques that has never led me astray.
Eighteen years on, years of eating, cooking, living and breathing food under my belt, I’m in Edmonton hell-bent on passing on some of the inspiration that Carla lent to me.
I can teach you French food and fancy techniques, if that is what you’d like. But give me the chance and I’ll choose to take some simple, perfect ingredients and bring them to life with the robust, peasant flavours that I love best of all. It’s yours to choose.
Either way, I’ll stay true to Carla by cooking “real food with the best of ingredients”. This will be the Get Cooking way!