Going Back to His Roots!

by Handy Mag
Published: Last Updated on

Ever-popular chef Ainsley Harriott, who first became a household name appearing on daytime TV shows such as Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook and Ready, Steady Cook, is back doing what he does best, cooking up a storm on his travels. Here we catch up with him…

The staycation has never been more popular and in his latest TV series Ainsley Harriott and restaurant critic Grace Dent, two of Britain’s most-loved foodies, have whetted our appetites as they explored some of the best seaside holiday destinations – and dishes – the British Isles have to offer in Best of British by the Sea.

The Channel 4 series saw the pair take in the delights of South Devon, the Isle of Wight, Carmarthenshire, Aberdeenshire and Norwich and Great Yarmouth.

“It’s the beautiful sea air,” said Ainsley when asked what is it about the seaside and food that makes such a great combination, adding: “Being al fresco gives you an amazing appetite, and the smell of salt – and especially if you’re near the boats with the actual smell of fish – just makes you want to have a bag of fish ’n’ chips in your hand.”

In 2020 Ainsley was honoured to be awarded an MBE for his services to broadcasting and the culinary arts. So where does his passion for food and cooking come from? “It definitely comes from my late mum Peppy, who taught me so much as I helped her in the kitchen. In a way, I suppose, she was passing down elements of her heritage. She didn’t only teach me about ingredients and recipes, she showed me how to cook with joy and, most importantly, with a lot of rhythm.”

And talking rhythm, Ainsley has twice swapped his oven gloves for dancing shoes to appear on family-favourite show Strictly Come Dancing, first partnering with Natalie Lowe, then returning for a Christmas Special with a dance routine with Karen Clifton.

But there is nothing that Ainsley loves more than taking a culinary voyage back to his roots to explore the dishes of the Caribbean.

In his first new book for over a decade, Ainsley’s Caribbean Kitchen published in 2019, he went island hopping between Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Barbados, St Lucia, Dominica and Antigua. He went off on his travels again the following year with Ainsley’s Mediterranean Cookbook, and in 2021, when we were in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic,

Ainsley hit the spot with his newest cookbook, Ainsley’s Good Mood Food: Easy, comforting meals to lift your spirits.

So, at 65, and back on our screens doing what he does best, what’s the secret of his success? “I don’t question it – I just keep doing what I’m doing! I’m very lucky to have a great job and I genuinely love meeting and working with really interesting people. Maybe that’s what audiences respond to – that what you’re seeing is not only fun, it’s also real.”

© Dan Jones from Ainsley’s Caribbean Kitchen
by Ainsley Harriott (Ebury Press, £20).

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