Russell’s Blog

Russ-newMy musings and ramblings! An extension of the Twitter account, recipes, restaurants, work, travel, maybe even my Sunday lunch.

One way and another I have done more and more writing over the last few years and I’m really enjoying having time to focus on this. I am contributing regularly to magazines such as the Caterer and Just About Dorset, but the blog is a chance to cover more diverse subjects – visits to growers, some of our travels, new recipes, occasional book reviews and some pieces about the work I am doing are a few areas I will be covering.

The guest blog section is where I prevail on friends and colleagues, most of them in the food industry, to share their thoughts, stories and experiences with us. Exciting, vibrant and diverse are words I’d use to sum things up on the guest blog and it isn’t all food related either!

I want to say a massive “thank you” to all those who have agreed to participate and I am sure that these contributions will be a big part of the interest in this website. Lots of these people have their own websites, blogs and books so please follow the links to see much more. If you are interested in guest blogging please email me at russell@CreativeAboutCuisine.com

 

February 2017 Newsletter

Hello!

The new year has started with a bit of a whirl for us here at Creative about Cuisine; there have been a number of projects in the pipeline for a while now and one in particular has just come off.

There is a book on its way!

Many of you who read the blog, follow on Twitter, etc. will know that books have always been a hugely important thing for me. I have always said that reading Pierre Koffmann’s book La Tante Claire was the catalyst to a career in professional cooking and all along the way books have continued to influence, delight and inform. Different books mark milestone times in my career and I still love the sensual, anticipatory pleasure of running my thumb down the opening page of a new book. I relish learning new things and books have been hugely important in that area.

To write a book has been a long held ambition, one that, with co-author Jon Haley, is now going to be fulfilled!

Jon and I were introduced over eighteen months ago now by good friend James Whetlor from Cabrito Goat Meat. Jon had been making a range of seasonal pestos as an adjunct to his full time job as a lawyer, and a website and blog were part of the business. You can take a look at the website here – all about seasonal food, seasonal living and cooking.

To cut a long story short, Jon felt there was the basis of a book in the content of the website and, after the introduction from James, we began to work up a pitch. Now, thanks to our efforts and those of our agent Georgina Capel Associates, we have a publishing deal with London-based publishers Head of Zeus.

My cooking has been driven by seasonal ingredients for years now so Jon and I make a great team. We both love the countryside, share an enjoyment of fishing, the outdoors in general and simple seasonal cooking. Equally we bring our own voices and areas of knowledge to the mix. Jon is writing about seasonal activities, ingredients and festivals, many of which have strong food links and he is educating me about many of them. I am working on recipes and the photography for the book, featuring dishes that are rooted in the seasonality and have some of my chef’s flair but are about cooking at home for family and friends. For both Jon and I, food is all about making people happy. There is crossover, of course, and we have had long discussions about the key ingredients to feature and what, this time, we sadly have to leave out!

Publication is hopefully going to be in March 2018 and we have plenty to get on with in the meantime. We hope to take you on the journey with us and will keep you updated with little teasers from behind the scenes! Click on this link below for a recipe, not one going in the book but an idea of what we are up to!

In other news;

I am delighted to be back at Taste Brasserie in Dorchester for a couple of guest chef nights on March 31st and April 1st 2017. The menu is below and bookings are directly with Taste – please telephone 01305 257776.

TASTE GUEST CHEF DINNER
Canapés and a glass of fizz

****
Amuse bouche

Cauliflower velouté with seared scallop

****

Starter

Salad of blood orange, chicory, prosciutto and mozzarella, chilli dressing

****

Pasta

Potato gnocchi with wild garlic pesto

****

Main

Roast loin of venison, crispy venison, potato purée, thyme and juniper jus

****

Dessert

Forced rhubarb, ginger cheesecake cream, streusel crumb

£55-00 per person

 

Melanie Jappy, creativity, criticism and the launch of a major TV show.

Melanie JappyI’ve been thinking about this guest blog for the longest time. Russell first asked me to write something over a year ago. I didn’t think many people would be interested in the machinations of a TV programme. Like making sausages, it’s best left unexplored. But yesterday I tweeted Russell to say I’d be sending him a blog. And what is said on twitter just can’t be taken back. I could put it off no longer. I decided to block out a cheery piece about the first episode. A few behind-the-scenes anecdotes and musings on the subjective nature of wine connoisseurship.

But this morning I caught myself staring at a flower stall and wondering if working there wouldn’t be a better use of my time. And now, as I start to write, I feel something else bubbling up. I’m pondering why any of us who work in what I broadly term the ‘creative’ industries do it? Why do we put ourselves out there when we could so easily hide away doing something no-one ever sees? Why do we continue trying when even our best, and that which is empirically good, isn’t enough for one group of people. I talk of those whose sole job is to comment on what we do. The critics. And let’s face it, these days, everyone’s a critic.

The Wine ShowWhy am I saying this now? Well, last night The Wine Show launched on ITV4. It’s the culmination of 19 month’s work by a small but dedicated team of people. We had only one mission; to entertain and inform people about a subject they may not know much about. We were in a tough slot – 7pm on ITV4 (it will repeat on ITV this Saturday).  But this morning I see that one critic admitted to watching the show having already decided to hate it.

Now, let me be clear. In the piece amidst the bile he attempts to make some humorous observations. In the end, he grudgingly says he likes it.  But like many people, I soak up the negative in inverse proportions to the positive.

Much of the review is factually ‘fluffy’ at best. Matthew and Matthew didn’t have the ‘heft to get the show made’. The show was largely financed before they were even cast. ITV never released a trailer. We did that ourselves on YouTube.

But what’s odd is that the trailer isn’t really a trailer. It’s just the first minute of the programme, which is in the same show he then decides is quite nicely made. It’s a bit like saying you hate the canape but served up on a plate it somehow tasted different…but whatever. He liked it.

I suppose I should take the criticism of my ‘stilted narration’ with a pinch of Maldon from someone who is so unhappy with his lot. I am particularly irked by the lazy Top Gear analogy (it’s presented by 3 people with penises. I get it.) but not bothered enough to use Disraeli’s comment ‘How much easier to be critical than to be correct’.

So why am I writing this on a food blog aimed at food folk at the top of their profession? Well, here’s where our worlds collide because I think the same thing can be said of chefs. I’ve spent years working with and observing chefs at fairly close quarters. I’ve often wondered what it is that makes them tick. Long ago I came to the conclusion that the common character traits of the most successful chefs are a massive ego and a tiny id. Huge self-regard baked on to low self-esteem.  But there’s something else they all have in common. A desire to make people happy. That’s it. Nothing more. You can dress it up with the need to nourish, showmanship, performance or power. But I’ve never met a great chef who doesn’t care if his customers are happy.

GrapesIt’s the same if you’re an author, a gardener, a musician or a hundred other jobs where sharing your talent is key to the point of your existence. And it’s especially true if you’re a TV producer. You might be able to write for personal gratification, or paint in a garret to feed just your soul. But as a TV producer you have to put it out there. If you don’t, you might as well pull the duvet over your head and stick a copy of TV Choice down your throat until you suffocate.

Like a chef leading a kitchen, a TV producer has to have a huge amount of confidence to turn a vision into reality. You have to communicate that vision to a large number of people. Some may need convincing because of their own experience and skills. But even the most successful producers question themselves. They doubt the wisdom of their own decisions. Like chefs, I’ve never met a producer I admire who doesn’t feel that way. Unlike chefs we rarely get the chance to start again if it’s all gone wrong.

Whether you’re launching a TV show that millions of people will see, or serving three bowls of a soup, our motivations and fears are the same.  We live in a world where everyone with a twitter account is a critic. Every blogger thinks they are the next Giles Coren. It’s become particularly difficult for those of us with tender ids and less than monstrous egos to cope. I suppose it’s the same for everyone in some way or another. Even doctors are rated on websites these days.

As a TV producer I accept that not everyone will love what I do. I just try and make as many people as I can as happy as I can. As a chef or cook I know you do too. I know many chefs hate what the TV business has done to their profession. But perhaps we can afford to be a little kinder to one another. We must remember that the challenge we share is meeting our critics head on. There is always a place for well informed and thoughtful analysis. And learning from that is easy.  It’s believing our best is excellent in the face of cynicism that’s difficult.

Now, does anyone have a flower stall they’d be interested in selling?

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