I have a painting of an old woman stirring a pot on the fire in a West Indian kitchen, cooking with her children. It used to hang in my mom’s kitchen and now I have it in mine. He is charming and speaks of yesteryear.
My father was an entertainer and there were a lot of people in show business, like Des O’Connor, hanging around the front room. Mom used to make them sandwiches and sandwiches and I would watch the reactions of thanks and listen to the jokes.
The most important of all it’s being able to convey enthusiasm on screen and I’ve always been a guy with a glass half full instead of half empty. Because of my energy, people say to me, “Oh, you’re so awake, Ainsley.” When I was in Ready constant cooking especially, they said, “Oh, he must be high, you know?”
When i call my brother to this day he still preaches to me on how to cook. “What you must realize, Ainsley,” he begins. As the youngest of the family, I just answer “yes, yes” and think: “Well, I have not done as well bad as a professional cook. “
I did something quite Caribbean on the Commonwealth Institute stage many years ago, and my mother was in the audience and yelled, “Don’t forget to cool down, Ainsley!” Then my sister yelled, “And don’t forget to make the onions.” My sister, when she comes, she will say, “I saw your show the other day and you did well.” But that’s it for the accolades. I take it on the chin. She will stir the things I’m cooking at home and take over.
Back in my day, Ronnie Fraser’s booth at Northcote Market [in Battersea] was the place for fruits and vegetables. He liked my mom and she always gave him a little pressie at Christmas, maybe socks or handkerchiefs. And I remember him pulling out a machete and cutting the rotten chunks of big yellow or white yams, saying, “How about that then?” and wrapping them with mom’s mangoes and avocados. He sold them when others didn’t. There he had cassava, green plantains, and plenty of sweet potatoes. And he was a lovely, lovely, lovely man.
Had greek neighbors and my friend’s father, who worked at the Battersea power station, taught me to play tavli (backgammon). We would sit there for hours drinking coffee, eating nuts, and playing tavli. The mātēr and the daughters fed me and taught me all kinds of dishes. He ate a lot of things from an early age. Mr. and Mrs. Cluck, who lived three doors apart, prepared Polish food and brought it to our house and we reciprocated with fried calypso chicken.
I spent a whole summer in France when I was a teenager, when I was still in school. I went with my friend Charles, who did not want to go alone, and we stayed with a pen pal with a dog that barked constantly and a police inspector father who smoked in Gauloise and who drank Ricard first thing in the morning. Charles spent the whole day in the hills with a girl. I spent a lot of time shopping for food and cooking with her mother.
At 17, he had a passion. I told her I wanted to go to the kitchen and my housekeeper replied, “You are a lot of too bright for that, Harriott. “What an insult. But I toured hotels and it felt like factories. Then I went to a fancy little classic French restaurant at the top end of Regent Street. [Verrey’s]. I arrived just after lunchtime service ended and the chefs were seated with beautiful chipped cups, used by the staff, and large silver pots of coffee and milk. They said, “You are not here to be killed, are you? You should go somewhere else. “I thought,” No way. That’s it. “
I had to go to Westminster Catering College to make my City & Guilds on launch day. I worked Really difficult, but I loved it. I mixed salt and vinegar to brighten the copper pots, made the flour finer with a three-blade parsley chopper, which was his joke on me, and started cooking onions. The chef used to say: “When customers enter the restaurant, you must be able to cook anything. The menu is just a guide. “So I had a classic Escoffier workout and at the end of the week, a white tablecloth would be lit, a projector brought in and we would watch dirty movies on the wall. It was very exciting.
After two and a half years At the Palace Hotel, as chef de partie, I drove around America with an old friend and spent the day in Sausalito, in a very original part of San Francisco, or drinking beer, smoking nonsense and having fun. When I returned to London, I became second chef at the Westbury.
I was chef at The Long Room at Lord’s cricket ground, and a radio producer called and asked if I would be hosting a cooking show. It was she who taught me to talk about what was happening: “When you see that smoky swirl start, you want to add a little color”; “You mark the outside of that wonderful golden rim, releasing the sugar …” – that sort of thing.
I have never received rude letters or written in strange colored ink. Maybe Joan or Sarah in the office read them first and didn’t send them. But I’ve had a lot of lovely people tell me “You make me smile” and “You are a wonderful inspiration.” One couple said, “You are the son we never had.”
I went through a stage to go out and buy or read any cookbook I saw. I used to go to Books for Cooks in Notting Hill Gate and sit down with a few bites and look at the history of food. That was wonderful.
For some years I was the face of Fairy Liquid. All kitchens include scrubbing. There were many exotic places and it allowed me to pay for my children’s education, until the ad agency decided to use a tough leather fairy on a motorcycle.
Sometimes I call my dog ”Basmati Bob”, because he likes his rice. Some people say that you should give your dog the same cookie every day, but that would be boring, sure? I go to the fishmonger on Northcote Road and ask, “Do you have anything for the dog?” And I’m going home with salmon, haddock, whatever, and I poach it to serve with your rice.
Ainsley’s Mediterranean Cookbook It is published by Ebury (£ 20). Ainsley’s Food We Love starts April 10 on ITV and Ainsley’s Mediterranean Cookbook is on ITV weekly starting April 20
My favorite things
There is nothing better than the comforting smell of freshly grilled chicken. The warm crisp skin, juicy meat, and all the sides bring back memories of childhood. And I still have my mother’s aluminum Jamaican Dutch oven and use it for frying, simmering, steaming, or in oil. I make creamed corn, stew with meatballs and rice and peas and so forth.
I love a couple or two of dark rum and really look forward to the limited edition bottle that a friend gives me every Christmas. It is a perfect accompaniment to a night at home playing backgammon. When summer rolls around, my delicious rum punch is always a winner.
Place to eat
I love going to Cheerful goat in Chester. I often show up after a morning walk with Bobby, my dog. I love sitting outside and watching the world go by while sipping great coffee and enjoying one of their fabulous pastries.
During blocking the Indian holy cow Balham High Road restaurant has been my choice of gift delivery. It is always a delicious experience.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism