JAMES REESON, ALIVE AND COOKING
James Reeson has cooked in the galley of a Saudi prince’s yacht ( it wasn’t as swanky as you might think) and the kitchen of a 200-seat restaurant. But according to the Englishman, they all pale in comparison to his adopted homeland of Australia. The star of TV shows like The Occasional
Cook and James Can Cook, Reeson can now be seen every weekday Alive and Cooking, which takes him around the country in search of the finest local ingredients and the best ways to present them.
“ It’s so exciting to be able to do what I love five days a week and inspire viewers across Australia to have fun in the kitchen and treat their taste buds with fresh food,” said the surf-loving chef, who considers Australia a foodie’s paradise.
James, you’ve worked in kitchens all over the world – is that jet-setting lifestyle one of the drawcards?
I didn’t realise you could travel with cooking until I got into it. Once I did, that was one of the things that really kept me in it. You’d be working in kitchens with guys from all over the place and they’d say things like ‘ Yeah, go to Argentina!’ You can pretty much drop a chef in any kitchen in the world and he’d get on better than he would in the outside world.
So what brought you Down Under?
I’ve been in Australia 16 years now. I’d always wanted to come here. As far as surfing and travelling were concerned, Australia was pretty much my Mecca. I first came here on holiday with a girlfriend and just fell in love with the place. As soon as I got back to the UK after a month, I said ‘ Right, where are the application papers? I am out of here!’ It took me about six weeks to get back here. In my first three years in Melbourne, I spent the winters up at the snow and the summers down at the beach. It was paradise.
When it comes to cooking, how would you defi ne your style?
It changes on a whim, really. The only constant would be fl avour. I think about what a dish will taste like before I’ve even started, and that leaves it open to interpretation. It’s more of a stylistic approach than an actual style itself. Right now, for example, I’ve just finished a black-bean cannelloni, which sounds odd, but it’s minced chicken, Swiss brown mushrooms and black beans in a rice-paper cannelloni. I’m just deciding whether to add a creamy sauce – it doesn’t really work with black beans and rice paper but I think it will with this dish.
You do Alive and Cooking five times a week – do you ever worry about running out of recipes?
Well, a commercial cooking show doesn’t limit your options. When we first started
Alive and Cooking, we knew we had to do 150 episodes so we’d need 400 recipes. Where do we start? I had blank pages every day for the first week but then I found out we’d be working with this particular company so we had these particular products. That was the starting point.
Road-testing those 400 recipes, how’s your hit-to-miss ratio?
The ratio would be 1 miss in 100 but I am talking about completely inedible stuff . [ Laughs] But even when you’re doing something off the cuff , you can gauge how it’s going as you’re travelling. The fl avour you want mightn’t be happening with your ingredients.
Did you ever think you’d end up cooking on TV?
No, I never dreamed I’d do it. When I first started cooking, it wasn’t really something that was happening – there were a few heroes out there but it didn’t really seem achievable.
Now that your profile has been raised by
Alive and Cooking, have you found you’re being approached for culinary tips?
Absolutely. Whenever you’re around food, people always ask you for advice. This is overstating it a little but it’s like being a doctor. The minute someone finds out you’re a doctor, they’re telling you about their aches and pains. The minute someone finds out you’re a chef, they’re asking you about recipes. It’s one of the great equalisers – we’re all involved in eating three times a day.
Alive and Cooking,
WIN only, weekdays
Reeson: “ Whenever you’re around food, people always ask you for advice. It’s one of the great equalisers – we’re all involved in eating three times a day.”