Food: Rachel Khoo On Her Terms

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Although the show painted a romantic picture of a young woman living her dream in Paris, making delicious dinners in her little kitchen, the reality was quite different: “There was mould on the walls, the paint was peeling, the electrics needed fixing and I could hear the neighbours snoring,” she groans. Also, her journey from getting off the Eurostar to having a best-selling cookbook and TV series was no picnic. “In Paris, if you are not French, then it’s very hard to break into the culinary world. There were many points when I was broke,
depressed, and had to borrow money. But I battled through because there was always something on the horizon, which made me work that bit harder.” Getting The Little Paris Kitchen taken on was a battle – seven publishers rejected it, but she persisted.

One would think after all the obstacles overcome and success that has ensued, failure for Rachel would be a thing of the past. “I’m met with failure all the time. 2017 was a really hard year for me,” she admits bleakly. “People just don’t talk about failure enough.” But like many successful people, it doesn’t stop her from moving forward: “If it doesn’t work one way, then I’ll try a different way. There are so many ways to do things.”

What is remarkable about Rachel Khoo is her energy: one minute she’s mixing up culinary techniques and influences, the next she is providing lifestyle tips on her online platform. She gets ideas through podcasts and social media as well as from nature and the everyday. “I try to be open and find inspiration in so many different ways,” she says. “If you are working in the food world, it’s very important to move beyond that world.” She does however recognize the pressure nowadays to constantly be creating, especially on social media. Therefore, she tries to find the balance, channelling her energy in testing recipes and having a rest now and then. “It’s good to have down time. I love to sit in the bath and have a piece of chocolate with a cup of tea.”

Thanks to Rachel Khoo, the budding cook or busy bee needn’t be intimidated to take on the classics nor the extravagant. Her new cookbook The Little Swedish Kitchen follows the theme of its Parisian predecessor: “‘Littleness’ is more of a mind-set,” she says. “It is the way that I write recipes: they are approachable; they are for home cooks. Whatever you have at home, you should be able to make it.”

Once I return home to Brussels, I watch some episodes of The Little Paris Kitchen again. I marvel that I got to interview someone I have admired for so long, who – like her recipes – is just as approachable, colourful and fuss-free. The Little Swedish Kitchen by Rachel Khoo is printed by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Follow Rachel on Instagram @rachelkhooks or on her website: www.rachelkhoo.com