French cuisine gets a Khool twist

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By Debashine Thangevelo

A fresh crop of chefs are navigating their way to stardom in TV land. One such talent is British food writer and pastry chef Rachel Khoo, who will soon be seen in The Little Paris Kitchen: Cooking with Rachel Khoo on BBC Lifestyle. Debashine Thangevelo enjoyed a chat with this culinary rebel who, for some reason, |took her back to the movie Julie & Julia...

MOST chefs – an easily riled Gordon Ramsay (as much as I adore him) being an exception – exude a warmth and charm that tends to complement their wholesome and flavourful dishes.

Britons Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson are two such likeable beings that you wish you could score a dinner invite with.

Rachel Khoo (pictured), who trained at Le Cordon Bleu, the world-renowned French culinary school, is new to the world of cuisine.

Interestingly, she earned her cooking stripes via her three cook books: Barres à Céreales, Muesli et Granola Maison (Homemade Muesli Bars, Muesli and Granola), Pâtes à Tartiner (Homemade Spreads) and The Little Paris Kitchen, which became the catalyst in her bagging a TV show.

Khoo shares: “I said I would really like to put my book on the English market. I had a meeting with Penguin Books, they liked the idea and offered me a book deal. I signed a deal in November 2010, started writing last year and then I opened my restaurant (in my flat which accommodates no more than four people) because I didn’t want to waste any good food while trying the recipes. The book did really well in the UK, with 80 000 copies sold. It has been translated into eight languages so far. Another four are planned for next year.”

And it was while penning The Little Paris Kitchen that she contem-plated bagging her own cooking show and relayed her sentiments to her agent.

This snowballed into a slew of meetings with various production companies until she found an independent small firm that was on the same page as the free-spirited Khoo.

For the sake of clarity, Khoo points out: “I don’t have people around for dinner in every episode. In the show, we explore Paris. We visit a bee keeper on the roof of the Grand Palais, which is a really beautiful building that is home to Channel’s fashion shows and lots of art exhibitions, among other things.

“So it is a combination of cooking in my tiny kitchen, which is 3m2.”

Having lived in Paris for the past seven years, Khoo says she avoided the “tourist thing”. Instead, she introduces viewers to the simple and tasty pleasures she has stumbled upon during her off-the-beaten track moments.

“In the show, we visit a baker who makes an amazing rustic sour dough bread. We go to Rungis, a wholesale food market that offers the freshest produce. So it is all about discovering Paris in a different way and using those ingredients in a very un-TV like kitchen,” she says.

In a nutshell, Khoo deconstructs classic Fresh dishes and gives them her own revolutionary twist.

And she has just signed another book deal.

“Maybe, if there is another season, I will go beyond Paris and visit the rest of France,” she winks at me.

• The Little Paris Kitchen: Cooking with Rachel Khoo will air on BBC Lifestyle (DStv channel 174) on Tuesday, December 4.

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