My Interview for French Living Magazine.

I was very excited to be interviewed by Jane Hanks for the June edition of French Living Magazine. Take a look at the full interview below…

Jane Hanks talks to successful home chef Ollie Timberlake about her path to a life in Burgundy, how UK chefs’ reputation is changing and why France is food heaven.

Ollie Timberlake is an Anglo-Jamacian chef who was trained in the UK but has worked in France for the past 25 years. She works as a “home” chef catering for pri-vate and business clients, for events such as weddings and also runs cooking cours-es. She is based in Burgundy in the village of Accolay, Yonne.

She says that cooking in France is a real pleasure: “I really love it. There are so many aspects. Each meal I create is different and even if I write down a recipe, there is always something that means it is never quite the same. “After all this time working as a chef, it still excites me to know that I am making people happy and healthy through my food. Trying new ingredients and dishes, creating cooking, sharing and tasting, is the most wonderful part of my daily life.”

 Why did you come to France?

When I left school I didn’t know exactly what to do; but I wanted to do something in the arts, like photography. But my mother said that was not a proper job and I liked cooking so why not do that? She was a typical Jamaican mother and she actually did nearly all the cooking but I loved watching her, so I applied to catering college in Sheffield and got my chef ’s diploma. In my last year I did a three-month internship in France and loved it and that made me want to go back later.

After college I worked in Bath and then in Edinburgh, but I wanted to travel so I looked in The Lady magazine and there was an advert to work on barges in France. It was a big change because on the boats you are alone in the kitchen and have to do everything; planning, buying, cooking, preparing vegetables and it was for14 passengers and six crew so that was 20 people each time. So it was a huge learning curve.

In college we had been taught to allow 250g of meat per person, but I soon learnt that was far too much, especially as there were three other courses. I stayed there for three seasons and it was a fabulous and a different way to see France. I then went back to the UK to do business studies in Oxford with the idea of running my own hotel or restaurant one day. But I kept getting pulled back to the boats and France. I still do work for them from time to time.

 

On one of your visits back you met your husband and that means you are now based in Burgundy, and run your own business. What are the advantages of cooking in France?

One good thing about being here is that eating is still seen as important. The French take time to eat and we as Brits can learn from them. We all have busy schedules, here too, but the French will always stop for a proper leisurely lunch. For a chef, it is a luxury, to have clients who take their food seriously.

Another aspect I love is being able to use local ingredients and to get to know my suppliers. I go to the local markets, and I have a chicken man and a pork man and they will really try to do their best for me.

Before Christmas, I wanted two capons, but everyone said it was too early in the season. So I went to my supplier in the market and he said come up to my farm and we’ll see what we can do. He found two, which were a bit smaller than they would have been later on but it was perfect. I have a wedding later this year and will need goats cheese in quantity so I have spoken to the cheese stall in the market and they will make sure there will be enough for me when I need it.I feel blessed to be in a place where I have that contact and all the ingredients I need are here.

French trained chefs in the UK are in high demand because of the gastronomic reputation of France. However, the French still think the British are lousy in the kitchen. Is that fair?

No, and I don’t know why there is still that bad reputation when I think of all those wonderful restaurants and chefs I love in the UK, like Ottolenghi and the River Café. You can still maybe get a better deal here with really good food at low prices such as the Les Routiers basic menus, but then again, I have friends who have told me that they eat really good pub meals in the UK which are not expensive. England is in fact so far ahead, and benefitting from a huge mix of cultures. Things are beginning to change here though.

Has the UK’s bad reputation ever made it difficult to get clients?

No, not at all and most of my clients are French. Some of them are not used to having a chef à domicile, a home chef, and are intrigued by it.

Recently, I cooked for the local mayor. He wanted to know what he had to do. In fact it is very straightforward. I sent him a choice of menu, which I made sure was not too far out of the norm. I gave him three choices for each course and he chose the most classic, for example Tarte Tatin for dessert rather than Parfait. Both he and the guests were very taken with the meal and the mayor has asked if I am available for a village event later on in the year.

How would you describe your style of cooking?


At catering college we were taught classic French cooking and I like to take that but make it lighter and use local ingredients with a touch of the Mediterranean such as using olive oil. I add a few little touches from my Jamaican background. I like using the Pimento berry (also called allspice), which is used for everything in Jamaica, not just for eating, but it is also added to rum and used for medicinal purposes. I always have a few berries added in with my pepper and I like serving it with foie gras. The food I make is described as fresh, yet rustic and comforting yet, vibrant.

What do you particularly enjoy cooking at the moment?

I am making a lot of bread right now. I am always trying to find the ultimate bread, which will suit everyone, even glu- ten free. I think I have found one using maize flour. The difficulty is to make sure it is not gooey, but I have managed to get a result which is a lovely soft roll. I use sourdough and I always have a culture on the go. When I am catering I always take some for the staff, so they have something to eat before we start work; bread is such a feel- good thing.

Do you have a signature dish?

Not really. But the one people do ask for a second time is a dish where I roast a piece of salmon with oil and fennel on a very low temperature for a long time and it has a wonderful texture and taste.

 You often cook at the nearby Le Château de Mailly and the owner Marion Smit has said that if you had a restaurant you would have several Michelin stars by now. Would you like to have your own restaurant?

Not really because the way I work now gives me freedom. A restaurant ties you down and I really enjoy creating meals to suit the client. A Michelin star is a great idea, but hey! I love doing what I do.

September Reflections on a Beautiful Summer...

It's September already, and just like that, life in Burgundy changes. The holidays suddenly end and a new school and working year begins. It feels like normal life resumes and I finally have a moment to reflect on the memorable events that took place over the summer.

We had what some people might call a 'real' summer this year in France. The sunny days started in May and continued until late August. It was an abundant season in the garden and I am now making preserves to bottle a taste of the summer during the cooler months that lie ahead.

Summer is a time of celebration in France. To holiday, catch up wth friends and family and also the traditional time for one of my favourite celebrations...weddings.

I worked at many beautiful events this year and wanted to share with you some images and my menu from a wedding that I catered for durning July. Julianna and Folko! What a fabulous day! And thank you again to my crew. I couldn't have done it without you.

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MENU

Champagne reception

Canapés

Gourgeres, snails in pastry with parsley butter, crudities (cherry tomato & mozzerella, cucumber and salmon sushi, radish flowers, carrot and celery)

Entrée

Foie gras terrine served with spiced gingerbread, red onion confit and pears poached in red wine

or

Melon, avocado and pink grapefruit salad with a sweet apple vinaigrette

Mains

Duck breast with a dry rub of fresh thyme, pink peppercorns and cracked pepper served with a drizzle of reduced balsamic and porto sauce

or

Sweet potato roulade filled with baby spinach and ricotta served with roast pepper and aubergine caponata

Fromage

Epoisses, beaufort, goats cheese and tomme de savoie served with a mixed salad and dried fruits and nuts

Dessert

Wedding cake: Croque en bouche

Salad of strawberries, with meringue (raspberry swirl) and chantilly cream

Tartelette au Citron

Chocolate fondant ganache cake with a white and dark chocolate drizzle

Caramel biscuits & almond cakes

Coffee and petit fours

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Retreat Yourself!

Bonjour and hello my friends,

I hope that this message finds you well, happy and inspired by the energy of spring!

Recently I have been cooking for the delightful Julie Holser and her incredible personal strategy retreats at Chateau de Mailly in France.

I am writing to let you know that Julie has just announced her Early Bird pricing for the upcoming October 4-8, 2017 Personal Strategy Retreat!. 

If you are interested in a powerful reboot of the mind and want to attend the October Retreat, then now is a great time to go for it!

Early Bird pricing is only available until June 1st, and it saves you 300€ off the regular price for a private room. Share a room with a friend and your price drops even more.  All is explained on the website www.thestrategicspace.com/retreats.

If you or someone you know are interested, please let me know asap as it is filled on a first applied/paid basis. Or better yet, complete the retreat application and then you can talk to Julie about what is possible.

And, if you’d like to read a firsthand account of what it was like to attend the retreat, you can check out this recent feature article that ran in The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/france/articles/holidays-that-will-improve-your-life/

Oú sort-On? My Debut Food Column!

Hi everyone! I am very excited to let you know that I will now be writing a food column for a local events guide called Oú sort-on?  Each month I will be sharing a recipe under the title of La cuisine du Monde (Cuisine of the World). 

This month I'm taking you on a gastronomic journey to Portugal where we will bake their famous Pastèis de Nata. The flavour of these gooey, rich egg custard tarts and their crispy pastry will take your heart to Pastéis de Belém and back!

They are of course best eaten the day they are made ;) ...

A February Tasting for a Summer Wedding.

Thank you Jamie and Mathieu for travelling to Chateau de Mailly from Paris to join me for a tasting last weekend. I am looking forward to celebrating your special day with you already! 

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Pavlova topped with Chantilly cream, a salad of blueberries , kiwi, blood oranges and a coulis of mango with ginger syrup.

Winter coleslaw, savoy and red cabbage, mango, mint, coriander roasted hazelnuts, a lime and maple syrup dressing.
&
Beef marinated in olive oil, green peppercorns and thyme, thinly sliced on a bed of bittersweet salad of radicchio, endive, purslane and parmesan salad.

 

A Decadent Winter Cooking Class at Le Chateau de Mailly.

“Nothing prepared us for our fabulous day of cooking at Le Chateau de Mailly-the fabulous kitchen, magnificent gardens, and luxurious house. It has been an experience to repeat!” – Angela Walsh

The sun was bright and full on a recent winter morning as I packed some of my favorite ingredients and cooking utensils in my car and headed off to e Chateau de Mailly. The day before, I had been to the market in Vermenton. It was alive with the energy that always comes before the festive season. The anticipation of celebration hung in the air. I had ordered foie gras and also an array of rustic winter vegetables fit for a medieval feast from my favorite producer. As I scraped the frost off my front windshield I thought of the recipes that I wanted to teach– did I have all my ingredients to prepare them? Juniper berries, check. Dill, check. As they say in French - on y va.

Le Chateau de Mailly is one of my favorite locations. Each time I arrive outside its gates, I remember why. Perched on prehistoric rock formations and encircled by medieval walls, its position offers magnificent views of the Burgundian countryside. Opposite the chateau are ‘les commons’ two adjoining buildings that were constructed during the 17th century to house both servants and stables. These buildings have now been converted into stunning suites with period furnishings, wooden floors and momentous fireplaces. ‘Les commons’ is also the site of my favorite room: the kitchen. With its 20-foot tall exposed wooden beam ceilings, restored cobble stone floors and communal wooden table-not to mention the fantastic cooking facilities. It’s hard for me not to feel in awe of this working space each time I see it.

The day was to be an interactive and entertaining one. I wanted to teach my students how to make a few special dishes that could be incorporated into their Christmas celebrations. We would be making foie gras terrine, gravalax (salmon cured in salt, dill and juniper berries), hand rolled pastry, and an all time favorite - macarons.

My students arrived and the kitchen was soon a flurry of activity with foie gras slicing, salmon deboning, salt and berries crushing and dill chopping. Flour was scattered on wooden worktops and pastry was rolled. 

 

We paused for a lunch of salmon and leek tart, mixed kale and radish salad and, of course a class of chilled Chablis to celebrate the start of celebrating. I had also made some Italian pannaforte and stollen bread to have with coffee.

We spent the afternoon mixing, colouring, piping and baking our macarons. We then had to decide which flavored filling to put in each flavored macaron! 

It was a fabulous day. Everyone left feeling that a little more festive and confident that their Christmas dinner would hold few new surprises for guests and hosts alike!

Thank you to Kim, Anna, Angela and Susan for being such enthusiastic students and making this day so memorable.

For any information on my upcoming cooking classes, please get in touch.

“An incredible day of cooking and feeling like I was at home with a group of close friends.” – Anna Wupperma