Chef Tom Kerridge, 47, opens up on homeschooling in lockdown, and his charity push for the hospitality industry.
Tell us about Hospitality Action and about how 54 top chefs have got together for a new cookbook…
It’s a charity I’ve been a patron of for a number of years and it helps people within the industry who have been affected by all sorts of problems like homelessness, drug or alcohol addictions, financial problems or mental health issues. These things sadly affect many people anyway but they seem to hit a lot of people in hospitality badly because of the long hours people work, the party vibes and the fact you’re surrounded by alcohol.
The pandemic has made everything worse. Right now, people have spent more than a year at home, they may have lost their jobs or are fearing for their jobs, and they’re drinking more. When your way of life has been taken away from you and nothing replaces it — you can’t put hospitality online — people really struggle.
The book Chefs At Home is to raise awareness and funds at a time when help is needed more than ever. Basically, leading chefs from around the country, including Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal, have contributed two recipes they created during lockdown — and all proceeds go to the charity.
How did you find lockdown?
I’m lucky I have a hugely positive mindset and although at times I found it harder to stay positive, I am the leader of businesses and it’s my job to be the same person I always was. The people around me need positivity and energy. So I’ve kept busy and I’ve spent more time with my son, which is amazing.
In terms of finances, it’s incredibly worrying and I’ve made losses, but I’ve made a few quid in the past and this has been a real experience. We can learn from this, move on and rebuild, and there’s plenty of time for businesses to turn around again.
How did you take to homeschooling?
I’m all right because my little man’s only five and I was quite lucky he was that age. For us, it was an hour of trying to get him to do a bit of reading and then some counting but it wasn’t like he had to be in a virtual classroom for hours on end. If he’d been over seven or a teenager, it would have been incredibly difficult to try and teach at home, and I feel the pain of all the parents who did that.
Do you think lockdown has been good for us as a foodie nation?
I think food has become very relevant to everyone’s life, and they’ve been trying to cook more and do more in the kitchen, especially in the first lockdown because it was all quite novel. For many people, going to the supermarket became the only exciting thing in their lives. By lockdown three, the fact that Domino’s profits were soaring was an indication that people were getting tired of doing all their own cooking and were turning to takeaways.
Have you had time for any new lockdown skills?
I wish! I know a lot of people have done a lot during the lockdowns but I have a festival business, an event business, a butchers, two restaurants, two pubs and a TV company — so I was in my office most of the time working very hard trying to restructure.
I wish I could say I’ve learned Mandarin and completed everything that’s on offer on Netflix but I haven’t.
In the first lockdown I took up running and ran five kilometres a day before I realised I hated it. So I ditched running and bought myself a static bike. Now I ride and watch Sky Sports at the same time so I’ve gone from being a rubbish runner in lockdown to a crap cyclist.
They say never work with children and animals — what about cooking on TV? Any burnt bits or outtakes?
We’re quite fortunate because most of the things I make are not live, they’re recorded, so you can always edit them — and they are made to look the most beautiful they can. But I’m trying to do a more realistic Instagram and social media so people understand that cooking is real, that things can go wrong and it’s not just how it looks on the TV. I’m not cool enough to be on TikTok, though.
You lost 12 stone in weight. What prompted that?
I was approaching my 40th birthday eight years ago and it was an age reflection point — you look at what’s going on with life and you think you need to make a difference. So I did. Like everyone else, I really battled to cut out things like sugars and chips.
What’s your favourite topping on chips?
Everyone’s being quite trendy and making loaded fries with truffle and parmesan or a vegan equivalent, which sounds absolutely delicious, but you’ve got to think of the setting — and I think if you’re sitting outside at the seaside, nothing can possibly beat plain old-fashioned malt vinegar and salt.
Chefs At Home in aid of Hospitality Action is out now with all royalties going to the charity
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