I’m delighted to introduce the next guest blogger Stevie Parle. Stevie’s blog entry really gets the mouth watering with his passionate words. Here he shares the source of his inspiration and explains his approach to cooking. After reading his post, I’m sure you will agree, it’s easy to see why Stevie is hailed as one of the hottest voices on the London food scene:
I’m extremely excited to be coming to Ballymaloe for the literary festival. Not just because of the incredible line-up (pretty much all of my most influential food people are there) but because Ballymaloe is where I started cooking seriously- more than 10 years ago.
Over the last few years, with three cookery books, a west London restaurant and a TV show under my belt I’ve done more than a couple of interviews. People often ask where I started out and how I learned to cook. I talk about travelling a lot as a child, and my dad cooking at the weekends, my grandpa’s attempts at Yorkshire pudding and my early days at River Café. And of course about Ballymaloe, people ask what I learned there, the truth is it’s hard to say. Obviously I learned a whole host of techniques and recipes, proper “old-skool” things like all the mother sauces and how to make choux pastry. Important stuff which gave me the a good grounding, allowing me to experiment but nothing I ever cook now yet the influence of Ballymaloe is still evident in my cooking today. But what is it that’s still there if not the recipes?…. It’s hard to say…. A perspective I suppose, an approach, a sensitivity. Something about integrity and truth to ingredients, a connection made between produce and growers that wasn’t there in my child hood in Birmingham, and could have never been made had I gone straight from school to professional kitchens in London.
An understanding of where food comes from is lacking in our society as a whole but also surprisingly apparent in restaurants too. We see huge volumes of produce, of extraordinarily good quality (in my restaurant anyway) and it can be easy to be somewhat reckless with it, to forget that meat has been reared and butchered extremely carefully and that a huge amount of care is taken to grow the wonderful vegetables we use and that for us to receive them in such perfect condition is a near miracle. If you have a proper understanding of just how hard it is to grow stuff, you’d never dump boxes of spinach on top of each other, or leave a pig in the plastic wrap it is delivered in rather than hang it carefully. My chefs probably think I’m obsessed about looking after the produce because I want to cut wastage and make more money, which is true, I am after all a business man ,but most importantly it’s about respect. The respect for ingredients and producers that I learned at Ballymaloe when I was 16.