The British Culinary Invasion by Erica Chorley
“The Brits are coming, the Brits are coming!” A cry being heard in cooking schools and broadcasting companies alike. Unless you live at the North Pole, you’ve heard the ramblings of a Naked Chef and a Domestic Goddess. If the States thought that British Cultural influence ended with the music scene, they were sadly mistaken.
The invasion began quite a time ago. The doors swung open with The Galloping Gourmet, only to be followed by Two Fat Ladies. The latter paved the way for a young hipster called Jamie Oliver to turn cooking upside down forever. While he has admittedly been overexposed in the UK, the Americans can not get enough of the adorable “Jamie”. His television series on the Food Network have been smash hits.
Jamie Oliver is a cross between the coolest guy at school and a serious culinary genius. He has brought the art of cookery to Generation X and their parents. He infuses charm, wit and herbs to take viewers on a ride (literally), either on his moped or in his hippie van. His cook books are flying off the shelves. He makes bashing things with a pestle and mortar sport rather than mundane. The recipes vary from dead easy to call for extra helpers. The result is gorgeous food and a beautiful gesture to loved ones. Rather than a call for take out, the meal is created with care, purpose and even love for those we cherish.
In this love fest, Americans are learning words like “pukka”, “luvvly jubbly” and other benchmarks of culinary terms. He has given the Emeril’s and Bobby Flays something to worry about. Jamie encourages children to get involved as well. He began cooking in his parents restaurant kitchen as a lad. The Naked Chef revolutionized televised cooking programs. The filming appeared grainy, with wobbly camera angles, jolting music and a moving host. Audiences transfered from the sofa to Jamie’s hip central London flat. The viewer is invited to christenings, band rehearsals, even family dinners. The wall between celebrity and viewer is in many ways absent from The Naked Chef and it’s spin-offs. Jamie has become a household name.
Where Jamie has opened this vast new world of the celebrity chef who is really close to resembling the rest of us rather than a picture perfect Martha Stewart, we also have the Domestic Goddess.
Nigella Lawson began as a style guru of sorts. How she made the transition from that to Goddess is the stuff of legends. She speaks exquisitely and is always dressed beautifully even when cooking. Nigella Bites hit the US in the last year and was gobbled up by the same avid watchers as Naked Chef. Nigella also garnered the posh audience that was disarmed by Oliver’s folksy, no fuss, personality. The Essex boy and posh goddess both generate enormous ratings and revenue for broadcasters and publishers. What is that myth, “The British have no Cuisine”? Tell that to the millions of viewers and readers. Nigella and Jamie are bringing British cuisine to America.
The invasion is not isolated to celebrity chefs with glossy cookbooks. Dallas, Texas, home to the Cowboys, J.R. Ewing and Modern Euro-British Cuisine? We Texans were blessed with Chef Nick Barclay and his delicious interpretation of Modern Euro-British cuisine. I think he actually primed the palettes and paved the way for Nigella and Jamie Oliver. Barclay served the most beautiful bubble and squeak on luxurious gold plates. Yes, bubble and squeak to the high society of Dallas. All the movers and shakers would dine at Barclays. Then, at the height of his success, Nick Barclay packed up the family and went home to fulfill a dream. He and his wife, Kelli, now own and operate Barclay House, a luxurious hotel and restaurant in Looe, Cornwall. I am certain we will hear of his impact even on the hotel industry as he has impacted Dallas dining.
So where is the invasion headed next? There is a real need for a balance. While Jamie Oliver’s recipes are varied and use a multitude of fresh herbs, vegetables, pastas and meats, the call is for light, satisfying recipes that won’t expand your waistline. Nigella’s contributions are sumptuous, guilty pleasures for the most part. The trend in cooking seems to inevitably follow the quest for the perfect body. Enter Chef Daniel Green.
Daniel Green’s story is a rollercoaster ride that seems fitting for a major motion picture or at the very least a made for television movie. He lived the life that so many of us have endured. He was overweight as a teenager and into adulthood. He reached his low and set out to slim down. Daniel Green really studied food and how to create meals for himself that were tasty and low calorie, The days passed and as he explored with recipes and lived a more active life, the pounds flew off. Daniel, transformed from heavy weight to superfine. Naturally he became a model. Yes I am serious. No, I am not making it up. Daniel strutted his stuff with the best of them including Claudia Schiffer. His modeling, although exciting, seemed to lack what he was looking for. Daniel Green decided to leave modeling and became a full time chef. He wanted to help others nourish their bodies with tasty recipes they could feel good about. He worked a great deal in Asia and his recipes reflect that time.
I first encountered his work in Self Magazine. He has a recipe for chicken wrapped in lettuce leaves. I made this for my husband and he was thrilled. I felt motivated to e-mail Daniel Green and thank him. He was kind enough to answer my e-mail. He is currently about to release a cookbook in the UK. Green will also star in his own television show in the Autumn.
The British culinary invasion was recently spoofed on Saturday Night Live. The Brits are coming, but they did not always get it right. Case in point Ainsley Harriott. His American show was painful viewing like a lamb to the slaughter. Not everything translates and really, do Brits ‘get’ Ainsley? In many ways the current invasion was prefaced by a British sitcom. The series “Chef” was a huge hit in the UK and USA. Lenny Henry painted British cuisine into the imaginations of us all. I really wanted unpasteurized Stilton contraband after that one episode. The “Chef” series got it right because now there are loads of the real thing making waves in the UK, USA and beyond.