Can you remember when you first fell in love with food and drink?
I think I first fell in love with the process of cooking rather than the food itself. The moment I stepped into a professional kitchen, I felt like it was where I belonged. It was so exciting to be surrounded by flames and steam, sizzling and chopping, and everything that goes into making a good plate of food. It was the practicalities themselves that I found so exciting and fascinating; the skill and the knowledge. I wanted so much to be there. I wanted to learn as much as I could. Tasting and eating came later.
How did you land on the concept of Bake with Jack?
I had been working as a chef for ten years and teaching cookery alongside my work for a year before I eventually started Bake with Jack. For a long time, I thought it would be amazing to go to somebody’s home and teach them about food in their own kitchen and cooking with their own oven. It made so much sense. So, after a year teaching adult education, gaining confidence in my abilities in the kitchen and ability to communicate that in a class setting, I started up Bake with Jack to bring the joy of homemade bread to people’s homes and to cook up some delicious accompaniments to go with their fresh bread. That was April 20, 2013.
Which chefs and bakers inspire you today?
I think I am less inspired by "chefs and bakers" and more inspired by the kindness and generosity of people in general. The people I visit and the people who come to my classes are my inspiration. I learn so much from them and they learn about food and bread from me; it's all part of the experience. Yes, the food is important (the principles of baking, the techniques and the satisfaction) but the concept of our day is so much bigger than that alone and so much simpler too. It's spending time together, actually spending it together, no distractions, just us and the food. There are tons of amazing people doing such interesting things with food and bread on Instagram, for example, but true inspiration comes just from inside us. It's those moments of "what if I could..." and sharing those moments.
What do you most enjoy about working with bread?
I enjoy the fact that dough is its own thing. It's alive and does what it does by itself. Once it's made nicely, we leave it alone to do its thing. All we have to do is treat it kindly along the way and to give it a helping hand to become the best bread it can be.
What’s the most exciting thing about being part of the baking world at the moment?
As interest in bread making increases, the speed of our lives decreases. Bread making is something we pause to do. It's becoming a cliché, certainly within my world, to say that the process of making your own bread is therapeutic. But it really is. We place our hectic lives on pause; we focus our once scattered attention; and just be with the dough. In a world where everything speeds up, where there are so many things stealing away our attention from us and that continues to accelerate, the most exciting thing about being part of the bread making "movement" is being able to speak out and remind people that life doesn't have to be that way. You can slow down, and if I can help through something as simple as a hand crafted loaf of bread, then that's an exciting position to be in.
Are there any bread styles that you think we should all be enjoying more of in Britain?
At the moment there seems to be a rise in sourdough, which is a great thing, but in general I feel like there is a lack of good, honest bread available to buy. So, right now? We should just be enjoying more real bread: no artificial additives and no nonsense.
Are there any local producers, chefs or makers you particularly enjoy collaborating with?
I must admit I am a bit of a lone ranger, but there are so many great producers in the Surrey food and drink scene. People like Albury Organic Vineyard and Crumbs Brewing and others who I see at food shows all over. It’s a really lovely community. I keep a close eye on The Salt Box who are working hard and creating amazing outdoor eating experiences with food cooked over fire in beautiful forest settings. What they are doing is unbelievable and they’re certainly one to watch. I hope to get to one of their events soon.
Tell us a little about your classes...
I've worked in a bakery before but I would never consider myself a professional baker. I'm a chef and a home baker making it work for me in my busy life at home. My recipes are written to work at home and to be practical first and foremost. That's how I teach a class. The idea is that anybody can make great bread at home, in your own oven, if you have a good understanding of the concept that's far more powerful than a recipe alone. With that in mind, it would be easy to send you home with a few recipes you can do again tomorrow or the next day, but the true power is in the education of the principle of bread. It's my aim to send you home with that. Then you have the confidence, and the knowledge to take your hobby much further than the recipes you return with.
If you had to choose one, what’s your proudest achievement to date?
In the life of Bake with Jack, it would be passing my six year anniversary and spending eight minutes as a guest on Sunday Brunch on Channel 4 just a few weeks ago. A true highlight, in a world it has been my ambition to be part of for years. I am now in a position with Bake with Jack that my work fits comfortably with my home and my family life, and I have been able to include regular voluntary work into my schedule, which is hugely challenging and hugely rewarding on a level that I never imagined could exist.
Finally, what can we expect from Bake with Jack in 2019?
In 2019, I'll continue to host my courses in Woking and private courses too, with a few new ones on the way. I'll carry on making regular content for YouTube and will be doing much more writing for the Bake with Jack blog, plus other things including the Surrey Cook Book and demonstrating at food festivals as I do each year. As far as we've come over the last six years, we are still and always will be at the beginning of something new. I have ambitions to write books, and have a presence on TV and so I'll be working towards that. Even if it takes another six years.
Tags: cooking advice