Thank you to everyone who sent me a question via twitter, FB and email when I invited you to ask me anything which came to mind. Here are my answers to the best of them (or, at least, those I could answer without getting sued or destroying my reputation!).
If you have any more you want me to answer, please just put them in the comments and I will add them to the article.
What are your favourite recipes to encourage children to start cooking
Archie was in the kitchen with me pretty well from six months old, rather dangerously hanging off my hip while I cooked one handed. Looking back, it was madness but I think it also introduced him to the kitchen. Once he was old enough to stand (11 months), we put him in his funpod. For many months, the only “cooking” I allowed him to do was cold cooking. Anything which involves mixing (and potential finger licking) is a great place to start. My muffins, my chocolate cake and the lemon and blueberry cake, for example. I also used to let Archie “tandem” cook with me. While I was cooking over the heat, he would make a concoction in his frying pan next to me, on the work top! As I always say, it’s not about the cooking, it’s about getting them in the kitchen and engaging them with what is going on.
What’s the best age to start cooking with kids?
As I said above, Archie was in the kitchen when he was 6 months old. It’s never too early!
Do you worry about safety?
I am going to post about this soon but, in short, yes. Although it may look like a very “freestyle” atmosphere in the kitchen, it is actually very boundaried indeed. I am hyper vigilant and carefully choose what he is allowed to do.
Have you ever had any accidents with Archie in the kitchen?
Thankfully no. We are extremely vigilant and I don’t take any risks with him.
Does Archie always eat his food?
Of course not!! Especially when he is off colour or tired or not well. Plus (on rare occasions of course!) he just simply doesn’t like what we have made!
What is his favourite/fallback meal?
I think we would be totally lost without humous at lunchtime. Pasta is our fallback here, we eat it at least three times a week here. And we know Archie will always eat it too. Also (should I admit this?!) he will always eat fresh fish and chips if we get a takeaway!
Do you ever worry about Archie’s involvement in the blog?
Yes! In the very early days, I didn’t even want him in the videos. As time has passed, Jo and I have become much more relaxed about it. Above all, he enjoys being in the kitchen and the videos are only documenting that. He is not being asked to do anything he wouldn’t normally do – and he gets a lot of praise and validation for doing it, so that can’t be a bad thing either. Importantly, he will not be the central part of any future career developments. Any involvement he has will be a bonus rather than an obligation and it will always be categorically dependant on him clearly wanting to be involved.
What does Archie think of the videos?
He absolutely loves watching them. He seems to find himself funny, He loves to talk us through what he did while we watch them.
Do you think Archie will be a chef?
I honestly don’t care what he becomes as long as he is happy in his skin and doing something which fulfils him. I think he will have a good feel for food though and will be able to cook when he is older…
What do you enjoy most/least about doing the blog?
I love the way it has brought me into contact with so many interesting people. Really, the connection it brings is priceless. Oddly, I least enjoy the actual editing of the videos! Don’t get me wrong, I love the finished result but they have been known to take me 12 hours and beyond! If I knew it would only take an hour or two, I would love doing them! Sometimes it can feel like a real slog but I know that the end result will usually be worth it.
Are you organised? Are you tidy?
Sadly I am neither!!! I am a complete scatter brain and not best known for being tidy! I blame it all on my creative spirit!
You always seem so relaxed with Archie, is this the real you?
I think people who know me would struggle to call me relaxed, although I am getting better with age! Oddly though, being around Archie is when I am at my most relaxed…
How did you meet your wife?
We were both volunteers at the Central London branch of Samaritans. [explanation for readers living abroad who don’t know the organisation, it’s a 24/7 helpline for people in emotional distress].
Is she a good cook?
It is hard to tell as she rarely is allowed past the door of the kitchen by her two boys!! But yes, she is a good cook.
How long have you been married?
Three and a half years.
What job does your wife do?
She is a psychotherapist. She works in a school, counselling teenagers, and also has her own private practise.
Was your own dad a good cook?
He was, and is, a good cook. My mum was always the cook of the house however and her influence in what I do now cannot be overstated.
What would you do if you weren’t a chef?
Well I am not a “chef”, I am a cook really. Last year I lost my business and was very stuck. I set up the blog to just have something to focus on, never remotely thinking it would take off as it has. Now it has turned into a new career – but if I hadn’t have done it, who knows what I would be doing now. I hope I would have found something else to get me out of the rut – but who knows!
What would be your desert island meal?
Very fresh, very crusty French sour dough bread, lots of beyond runny cheeses and a large glass of red wine.
What would be your food “hell”?
Anything with dessicated coconut! And mince pies!
What was your best meal ever?
1998 in a restaurant near St Etienne which I sadly cannot remember the name of (will try again to find it). It was the day of England v Argentina in the World Cup and I had invited my dad over to go to the game (I was living in France at the time). We went for lunch at a 2 star Michelin Restaurant and had a scandalously cheap (£25 per head) 7 course lunch including the largest cheese selection I have ever seen (on a revolving carousel tray). As is often the case, the context of a meal also enhances the memory and this was certainly a very memorable day. And only in France can you spend 5 hours eating such a high quality lunch for such little cost…
Which chef do you find the most inspirational?
I absolutely love Bill Granger, for his philosophy on food. I also get very excited whenever I see Michel Roux Snr on TV. In truth, most chefs inspire me – I can’t get enough of their shows or books!
What’s your biggest ambition?
Well I had always deep-down wanted to write a book, and the blog has allowed me to achieve that (talking of which, I should be writing today!).
Did you go to University?
Does 9 months at Leeds Uni before dropping out to go back to France to live with my French teacher count? No, didn’t think so!
What do you do when you are not in the kitchen?
Since I became a dad, not much! Where does all the time go?! My main pastime outside of this house is football and I have been an Arsenal season ticket holder for over 30 years.
Brown, Cameron or Clegg?
That will remain between me and the queen!
Had you been in the media before doing the blog?
No, not at all. That said, I was brought up in a creative/media environment because my dad was a successful manager of Indie bands.
If you had all the money in the world, what would you do (if it wasn’t this)?
I would campaign for awareness and for the rights of people with mental health problems. My time at Samaritans showed me that suicide still remains the biggest single killer of men my age
What’s your favourite meal to cook?
I love nothing more than cooking a family roast, not only for the actual cooking, but also for the pleasure in eating it together too.
Any foods you avoid cooking?
Back to desiccated coconut again! I am not into sweetmeats either.
Do you have any guilty pleasures? If so, what are they?
Oh my, I will have to set up mydaddycooksafternineoclock.com before I can answer that! (of course the sad truth is being a busy dad of a very active toddler, guilty pleasures are but a figment of my imagination or a vague memory from the past!).
What’s you favourite biscuit?
I know I said “random” but this is… totally random! Anyhow, it’s bourbons all the way for me.
What qualities have you gained since becoming a parent? Which would you say is the most important & why?
I would have to say patience – because my word, a toddler can really test your limits. Plus I don’t know if this is a quality but I think I have gained an understanding that life really is short and we only have a limited time to make a real difference. I also find that being a parent is a very humbling experience because Archie has an ability to strip away any pretence and fluff and just go to the heart of the matter. So perhaps greater humility is the most important… very tricky question to answer though!