The UK CEO Cookoff

Here’s what you get if you combine 30 of the worlds finest chefs, 60 of the UK’s captains of industry and 600 unsung heroes under one roof. The inaugural UK CEO Cookoff brought this seemingly unlikely gathering of incredible people together in support of the recently established UKHarvest and the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.

Following the fantastically successful OzHarvest in Australia, founded by social entrepreneur Ronni Kahn back in 2004, the UK now has its own food rescue charity that redistributes quality surplus food from commercial outlets to charities. It carries out this truly inspirational role to nourish our nation’s vulnerable, free of charge. Where do I sign up?

Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall is patron of UKHarvest and we had the pleasure of her gracious company on the night as she mingled with guests and chefs alike, and even got involved in creating a delicious plate of food for an everyday hero.

Camilla Parker Bowles

I was volunteering in the esteemed company of three other wonderful Food Revolution Ambassadors, Lara from Essex, Jaroslav from Switzerland and Thomas from Germany. I’m still awestruck; not by the number of celebrities, but by the sheer inspiration, love and palpable motivation in the room. I’m so grateful to everyone that worked so hard to make this happen.

Food Revolution Ambassadors with Jamie Oliver

Everyday heroes from schools, hospitals and charities were treated to a spectacular evening which I have to admit I was rather jealous of; Nyetimber English sparkling wine and Toast Ale on arrival, producer stalls and the Food Assembly showcasing their wares, stunning food crafted in front of them, raucous entertainment from the magical Dynamo, and the most agreeable tones of Calum Scott.

So here’s how it worked. The 30 chefs taught the 60 CEOs, who then cooked for the 600 guests in groups of 20 around little kitchen pods. It was perhaps the most social, friendly and team-spirited experience I can remember. I dearly hope that this is the first of many such events and given Hotpoint‘s kind sponsorship, I’m sure there’s bigger and better to come next year. I teamed up with Jimmy of Ministry of Food fame, Amy from Hotpoint, the legendary Brett Graham of the Ledbury and Andreas Viestad the Norwegian farmer, traveller, home cook, food writer and activist….yeah, busy guy. My word these guys are talented; the attention to detail leaves me speechless. More importantly, they’re incredibly down to earth, charming and generally bloody good guys. Alongside their budding superstar chefs of the future, Eilish Maloney and Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen from Norway, we had a blast with our CEOs from Google, Quadia, John Lewis and Jamie Oliver Licensing.

I was a little busy to be taking lots of photographs as I normally do, but it would be rude not to pop in a few shots of the mouthwatering plates:

beautiful buffalo mozzarellaUK CEO cookoff dish

These guys weren’t holding back: Truffle seaweed, pigs jowls and goat’s whey butter all made an appearance. The fact that Brett and Eilish put a call through to the Ledbury to have their own bread couriered over in a taxi shows how serious they were about delivering the perfect experience for their guests.

How much did we raise….? Over £500,000 before the night was out, and the total is still rising. Mind-blowing! We’re aiming high in the name of food education, tackling malnutrition and obesity, and reducing the staggering level of food wastage.

Get over there and support the cause folks: www.ceocookoff.co.uk

Roll on 2018 CEO Cookoff.

View from Old Billingsgate Grand Hall

 

Okonomiyaki

Today is a good day. I’m rarely happier than when I’m off on a foodie expedition, ice-axe in hand. There’s things I’ve eaten, read about, seen on TV and the like, but the mountain is never really conquered until you’ve truly ‘been there’. Tick.

Okonomiyaki [o-konomi-yaki] is a Japanese savoury pancake. I’ve eaten plenty, but discovering how easy and satisfying it is to make them in your own kitchen is positively joyous.

Here’s the low-down:

Make a pancake batter, fill it with delicious savoury ingredients, cook it slowly and top it with equally delicious and visually attractive garnishes. 

The name derives from ‘okonomi’ which means ‘whatever you like’ and ‘yaki’ meaning ‘grill’. As you may be aware, I’m a big fan of using up leftovers and reducing food waste so this is right up there in the list of go-to/back-pocket dishes.

Although it has regional variations across Japan, generally speaking it’s filled with shredded cabbage, but I’ve used gem lettuce in my version as it’s what I had to hand. It’s your dish – mix it up to your liking, but you’ll have to trust me with the mayonnaise zigzag.. I think it really is essential and brings an additional dimension.

Felix eating Okonomiyaki

Ingredients: (serves 1)

  • 1 large egg
  • 50ml stock, cooled
  • 4 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 handful lettuce (or cabbage), shredded
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp black sesame seeds or Furikake*
  • 1 tsp rapeseed of vegetable oil
  • mayonnaise (from a squeezy bottle)
  • oyster sauce
  • Sriracha chilli sauce

Method:

  1. Beat the egg, stock and flour together with a pinch of salt.
  2. Mix in the lettuce and some of the spring onion (or ‘whatever you like’).
  3. Fry in the oil over a low heat for about 5 minutes on each side until until golden and a little crispy.
  4. Top with the obligatory crisscross of sauces and top with the remaining spring onion and your choice of condiments.

*Furikake is a Japanese seasoning made from mixed sesame seeds, Shiso leaves and nori seaweed.

japanese savoury pancake dish