MY FOODIE JOURNEY
I became interested in cooking from an early age and was taught by my foodie dad. He has always been passionate about cooking, and I was always willing to join in whenever the chance arose - rolling out the pastry for 'jammy tarts', chopping the veg, giving critique on all the offcuts and mixes along the way...anything! I'll never forget the pride I felt in creating my first ever proper dinner - a roast chicken - all by myself at age 9! I also loved visiting local markets and producers both at home and away, to see the variety of produce and the passion of the people who make and grow it. In the Essex village where I grew up there was a fruit farm, and picked strawberries from there every year since was born, until we left when I was 28. Whenever we've been abroad, I am always enraptured by seeing the array of products and ingredients that you can't find back here, and the sense of place and identity that they inspire. I was always encouraged to share in Dad's appreciation of food, and 'not liking' things was pretty much a fast-track to being disowned!
Despite having always been interested and involved in food, the time I started really developing and advancing my cooking was while away from university for a several years having contracted M.E. (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). As someone who loves doing a huge range of activities (performing arts, academics, distance running, reading, travelling etc), this was a crushing blow, which took all this away from me. While not a fatal condition, I am sure that I speak for many other sufferers everywhere when I say that it is a painfully real illness that seriously damages quality of life. I eventually had to withdraw from St Andrews University to allow me the time to fully recover, and without all the activities and hobbies that I loved I felt helpless, not really knowing what to do with myself. But then I started doing the odd cooking task here and there - baking a cake for someone's birthday, doing the weekly food shop and choosing produce, helping prepare dinner, and so on - and realised that this was something I could still do. I started devouring myriads of cookbooks, and developed a serious addiction f a myriad of different cooking shows (Masterchef UK, Great British Menu, Saturday Kitchen, The Great British Bake Off, Heston's Feasts, then my favourite, Masterchef Australia). Every time I watched I saw new recipes, new styles, new techniques, knowing that I had to give them a go, no matter how complicated (though have not yet been quite brave or mad enough to try anything from Heston's Feasts)! In 2009 I took part in ITV's Britain's Best Dish in the East of England heats, making a chocolate and beetroot dessert, then in 2010 I won Jason Atherton's recipe competition to celebrate the opening of Pollen Street Social, one of my absolute favourite restaurants (recipes for both dishes on this website). I also recently won the Great British Chefs 'Summer Recipe' competition with my dish, Middle Eastern 'Ice Cream Sandwich' with Poached Peaches, and am now a recipe contributor for that website.
I love preparing dinner parties for family and friends, especially when it involves pushing myself with new recipes and techniques, and I am always on the lookout for inspiration to create brand new recipes of my own. I would love to get involved in live cooking demos and supper clubs in the future, and am excited to see where this foodie journey will lead me next!
MY PERFORMING AND FILM JOURNEY
I've always been a performer and love being on stage, especially acting, but also singing and playing music. From a young age I always wanted to put on little shows for my family, and loved taking part in school shows. Going to the cinema was one of my favourite treats, and the whole experience always excited me.
Similar to my food journey, my interest in film went to a whole new level after contracting M.E. When I was at rock bottom, unable to do anything much at all, I would get through several films a day. It was an escape but also a release, because here was something I could enjoy even when I was low. My dad introduced me to Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's film review podcast, and from the first listen I was hooked. I have listened to every episode since, and the 'Wittertainment Code of Conduct' is another Ten Commandments for someone like me who is very fussy about correct cinema etiquette! The programme was such an entertaining listen, from the banter to the rants and beyond, but more than that I would listen and find myself engaging with the reviews and discussions. I wanted not only to watch films but really explore them and think critically about all their layers. I subsequently did a spell of film reviewing on Cambridge 105's radio film review show, Bums on Seats., and once hosted an episode following the 2011 Oscars.
Also like food, acting is something that has been very helpful to me in managing my Asperger's Syndrome. Social communication and understanding have always been an issue for me, but through getting stuck into plays I found that I could get under the skin of a character, think as they thought, feel as they feel, and empathise and communicate in a way I could not otherwise do. It also made it easier and more natural for me to communicate with others and make myself understood. In my home town of Cambridge, while away from university I got involved in as many Cambridge University shows as I could, and in 2014 one of those plays was taken to the Edinburgh Fringe, which was my first ever experience of that festival. My first - and hopefully not last! - film set experience was as a background extra in 2014's The Theory of Everything. Professional film and theatre acting is something that I would love to take further in the future if I get the chance.
I have just begun my second year at Durham University reading Modern Languages and Cultures (in my case Italian and Spanish), which hopefully will bring me some exciting opportunities on the stage!
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