I learnt to cook at my mother’s side. She started teaching me how to make a béchamel sauce and sweat onions until soft and sweet when I was six. I was instantly hooked. I then wasted most of my twenties trying to find a career not in food and worked in advertising, VAT consultancy, journalism, digital consultancy among other things. I finally met Clarissa Dickson Wright on a catwalk in 2002 and she told me get cracking and follow my passion for food.
So I went to Ballymaloe Cookery School in East Cork for three months and then onto a cheese farm called Gubbeen in Schull, West Cork where I moonlighted with Clodagh McKenna, selling homemade pasta, sauces and sourdough breads at farmers markets around the county. It was an epiphany.
I went on to manage a large deli in London and then onto Mexico where I opened a cocktail bar for some friends. The diversity of the ingredients and the quality of the food there had caught my attention on my gap year and this time I travelled around the country as much as possible learning as much as I could about the different regions and their food. Back to the UK, broke and with no idea what to do next Masterchef came knocking with an unexpected and breath-taking win, then a stint at Petersham Nurseries under the watchful eye of Skye Gyngell. A year later, in 2006, I was introduced to my business partner, Mark Selby, by a mutual friend. We talked about food and restaurants and a year later after several research trips to Mexico, Wahaca was born, inspired by the street food and food markets of Mexico. From the word go we wanted to create a fun, innovative business that would be as sustainable as possible so we opened our doors recycling everything from our menus, cardboard, glass and food waste.
Having written a weekly column for the Times for a few years from 2005 I then went onto write for Country Life from 2011-2014. I now have a happy home in the Saturday Guardian magazine where I write a weekly column called ‘Weekend Cook’ with accessible, simple but delicious food. I have presented several TV programmes for Channel 4 and Channel 5 and have written 6 cookery books. My seventh, Home Cook, is published by Faber & Faber and comes out in March 2017. Since 2014 I have been helping our local primary, ARK Franklin, establish an open air classroom in their grounds. When I am not recipe developing at Wahaca or writing, or cooking (and dancing) at festivals I am shopping at my local market, growing vegetables in our back garden and feeding my husband, three children and our friends.