Rich Harris is a British chef, home economist and food stylist. He’s worked behind the scenes on some of the UK’s favourite cooking shows, including Masterchef, Great British Menu, Britain’s Best Dish and River Cottage to name just a few. You may also have spotted Rich on Waitrose’s very own TV channel, Waitrose TV, or in its magazine Harvest, where he also presents and writes.
After travelling to over 30 countries and working alongside many of the world’s most renowned chefs, Rich (otherwise known as The Food Insider) has experienced cooking inside some of the most high-pressured and exciting kitchens in the world.
We sat down with Rich to chat all things foodie, dishing the dirt on what’s it’s like to be a professional chef and how to keep your kitchen shipshape.
How long have you been cooking professionally?
Around eight years.
Where did you train?
I didn’t go to professional training school to become a chef. I actually studied French at university and spent a year studying abroad in France. Whilst studying I took an interest in cooking and taught myself. I then went on to work alongside chefs like Michel Roux Jr, Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay, where you are under pressure to work very fast. You have no choice but to learn quickly to keep up with the pace.
How would you describe your cooking style?
As a food stylist and having spent many years cooking under other chefs, I have a very broad range. This is also influenced by the huge amounts of travel I’ve done, experiencing so many different cuisines. Personally, I love using really good ingredients, cooking traditional dishes from scratch. Think homemade breads, fresh pastas and bringing out really old recipes from all over the world, especially Italy and France.
Your new book focuses heavily on barbecuing. How did you move from traditional kitchen to outdoors?
I’ve always thought of a barbecue as an extension of the kitchen. My barbecue is right outside my kitchen door, so it’s almost in the room.
Cooking over charcoal and wood is lovely. It’s steeped in history and it just feels like a natural progression from the oven.
What do you like about cooking with a traditional kitchen set-up, such as an oven or hob, vs using a barbecue?
In a kitchen there’s lots of space to move around. You have a lot more control over the cooking so using my range cooker means I can cook dishes very precisely. This is perfect for styling.
With barbecues, the cooking is a bit more rough and ready. You can’t get the same precision but it’s a different experience.
What’s your favourite recipe to cook at home?
I love seasonal food so at the moment great ingredients that come to mind are asparagus, strawberries and Jersey Royal potatoes.
I’d lightly barbecue a lamb rump and serve fresh peas, asparagus and a side of Jersey Royals. You could do this either in your kitchen or on your barbecue outdoors.
What’s your favourite ingredient to cook that’s good for both kitchen oven cooking and outdoor barbecues?
You can’t go wrong with really good pork. It’s such a versatile meat. In the oven you’ve got really dry heat, which is perfect for crackling. On a barbecue you can create a really juicy pulled pork dish using salt, pepper and a bit of sugar to slow-cook.
Do you have any top tips from traditional oven and hob cooking that translate to cooking on a barbecue?
Treat your barbecue as an extension of your oven and approach it like a grill. Have all of your ingredients laid out, with everything to hand. Most importantly, make sure you take your meat out of the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour before to allow it to cool to room temperature. This is the same for both kitchen and outdoor cooking.
What’s your advice for creating as little mess in the kitchen as possible?
My kitchen is very tidy. I have to have it clean and tidy and know what’s going on. I enjoy order and I find it helps to cook dishes more accurately and this is the same for all of the professional kitchens I’ve cooked in. With clutter there’s a tendency to get flustered.
Who does your cleaning?
I clean my own kitchen on a daily basis but I also have a cleaner who comes once a week to give my oven a bit of a deep clean. It’s really important to keep your oven clean, otherwise you can’t cook your dishes as accurately and the food doesn’t taste as good.
Do you fancy having Ovenu come round and clean your oven?
If only I didn’t already have a cleaner!
So there you have it straight from a professional: keep your oven clean to ensure you make the best food! If you’d like to see more from Rich Harris, his new book, Fire and Smoke, is available from 26 May.