It’s not likely that you would hear a chef prod people to eat at home. But that’s what Britain’s leading chef Rob Rees, who is credited for creating a revolution in the country’s food culture, has been doing for years. Reason: home-cooked food, he believes, is the healthiest.
Home-cooked food is something he cherished since childhood. “As a child, my parents surrounded me with good food; not the fine dining stuff, but hearty British family food. My mother’s enthusiasm about home food nurtured my desire to become a chef and I entered the industry at 16,” shares the chef, who visited India as part of the Great Britain campaign, a UK government initiative.
Rees, who offers stimulating food experiences as the ‘Cotswold Chef’ through food classes and tours, hosted a five-course dinner at Orient Express at The Taj Palace, serving dishes that had a ‘Great British story to tell’. For instance, the chorizos, which are traditionally Spanish pork sausages, are now being produced by farmers in Britain along with hundreds of cheese, beers, ciders, and wines. Rees’ lemon posset served with the summer pudding was classic English; the chef also added an imagery to it. “Shut your eyes and imagine a warm English summer day with the church bells ringing in the background, bees buzzing, birds tweeting with this dessert,” he said.
Rees had a great time exploring the city’s street food hubs. “I had a kebab with 45 ingredients at Karim’s! I hope that India maintains its food culture in a society bombarded by a mass-produced fast food nation,” he says. Rees, who chairs UK’s School Food Trust (the organisation that advises government on children’s diet), says Britain had given in to the fast food culture, but thanks to the trust, the country has turned around standards of food served to children.
“Children no longer get fizzy drinks, chocolates, or snacks in schools. We also have Lets Get Cooking clubs, over 5,500 of them, with 1.7 million people taking part and eating better food,” he shares. This huge cultural shift hasn’t been easy in a world where money talks, he adds. “It was about winning hearts and applying
common sense when it comes to feeding our future. We couldn’t afford the obesity time bomb that was ticking,” says Rees.