Insta success for the Cookbook crew

Image above: cookbookfestiv1 page on Instagram

The women behind the Cookbook Festival have come up with the perfect Lockdown activity for foodies: nightly live chats with well known chefs, sharing their experiences, hints and tips and even favourite food related books and films.

Rebranded as ‘Cookbook Kitchen‘, as they had already decided at the beginning of the year that they wouldn’t be putting on another Cookbook festival as such, concentrating instead on their popular Supper Clubs. Now deprived of the opportunity of doing even that, they’ve turned their creativity to Kitchen Conversations which you can find on Instagram.

Fran Warde talks to a different chef each night, Monday – Friday at 6.00pm for about half an hour. Among her guests have been Henry Harris, founder and owner of Racine restaurant in Knightsbridge, now chef-director of Harcourt Inns with four gastropubs; Lindsay Elder, who opened The Elder Press in W6 this year; Yuka Gyozo, who started teaching Japanese cooking about ten years ago; and “Nordic food Goddess” Trine Hahnemann and her sister Silla Bjerrum, who talked about their careers in food: Trine has a ‘destination’ cafe in Copenhagen, ‘Hahnemanns Kokken’ (kitchen) with a bakery, classes and an events space; Silla co-founded Feng Sushi and teaches sushi cooking in a number of London Schools. Her last venture was to launch ‘Sushi Daily Grab and Go’ in New Oxford Street.

Images above: Lisa Markwell; Lisa talking to Fran on Instagram

There’s an interesting mix of guests, with some chefs who knew straight away from the age of 16 that they wanted to be chefs and immersed themselves in cooking from the get go. Others, such as journalist Lisa Markwell have come to professional cooking fairly late, having had other careers first.

Lisa went straight into magazine journalism when she left school at 16, working at Country Life and a number of fashion magazines before becoming a commissioning editor on the Sunday Times, editor of the Mail on Sunday magazine and a string of other high profile publications, culminating in her getting the job as Editor of the Independent on Sunday. Seeing her sitting in her kitchen, you can see her massive collection of cookbooks behind her on the shelves, so perhaps it’s no great surprise that she decided to go and study a one year diploma course at Leith’s Cookery School to train as a chef.

She now runs the Sunday Times Cookbook club, which has grown hugely during the lockdown, as people have had the time to cook and felt the need to provide their families with nourishing, comforting good. They use the Cookbook club to swap tips and talk to each other as well as to find out what they can from well known chefs.


Image above: Fran Warde with Toe Trivelli

Joe Trivelli, the co-head chef of River Cafe and author of The Modern Italian Cook described how he had absorbed Italian cooking growing up. His mother is English and he grew up here, but his father is Italian, so they spent their summers with the Italian relatives and he remembers waking up to the smells of his grandmother’s cooking wafting through the house in the early morning, and going with her to markets where she would argue with the market traders and challenge them to offer her something better. He and his brother would carry the bags. Even on camping trips he said, they took their food very seriously.

Joe wishes he’d had the experience of learning how to grow food, which he never did, but which Ukranian Olia Hercules did, and took for granted. Growing up in Ukraine until she was 12, her family had a small holding and grew all their own food. Summers the women decamped into the ‘summer kitchen’ and at the end of the season filled great jars of pickled and preserved foods for the winter. She had no interest in it, she told Fran, as a child or as a teenager, only realising at university in Warwick how much she missed the wholesome home cooked diet.

Image above: Fran Warde with Olia Hercules

“I didn’t realise how important the produce was” she says. She tried to cook with ingredients from the small supermarket on campus, but it never came out the same and she just thought she was a lousy cook, until she spent a year in Italy and realised what a difference quality, fresh produce made. “I just thought I was a terrible cook” she said, but inspired by how good young Italians, male and female, were at cooking she decided to give it another go.

Coming up next week (week beginning Monday 8 June) at 6.00pm each evening, here, Fran’s line up is:

Monday 8 June
Cook, restaurateur, author, Anna Headworth
Tuesday 9 June
Guardian columnist, author, blogger, Fiona Beckett
Wednesday 10 June
Talking about her new book Always Home, and on growing up with a famous mum,
Fanny Singer, daughter of famed food writer Alice Walters
Thursday 11 June
Virtual cooking socials invented to replace popular supper clubs
Friday 12 June
Cookbook author, stylist, photographer and studying nutrition
Atoosa Sepher

Follow Kitchen Conversations at cookbookfestiv1