Rachel Khoo is a writer and cook with a passion for French food done simply. She also has a tiny kitchen.
Seriously, it’s minuscule.
The Croydon born chef moved to Paris six years ago. She didn’t know anyone. She didn’t speak the language but nevertheless managed to obtain a pastry degree from Le Cordon Bleu.
That’s a degree in pastry making by the way, not a degree printed on Jus-Rol.
It’s a sweet story, but she tells it a lot. Almost as much as she bangs on about the size of her cooking area (did we mention it was small).
Truth be told, that is one petite cuisine. Her hob is a camping stove. Her oven can barely fit a whole chicken and she has enough hanging storage to rival Ikea. It’s incredibly claustrophobic and unclear exactly how the BBC managed to film a tv series in it without removing at least one load bearing wall.
Not only is it small, it’s falling apart. Cupboard doors hang from their hinges, the fridge is overworked, the freezer broken. She takes an age to find anything amongst all the storage jars. Rachel says she’s taking the fear out of French cooking, showing the food the way Parisians cook and eat it. But the endless rearranging of pans is less Masterchef, more Krypton Factor.
What’s not clear is why. This is her career, her life’s passion. Why not just get a flat with a bigger kitchen and sleep on the sofa? Or store your shoes in the bath?
It may be a nice gimmick for a tv show, but when Rachel goes to all that trouble rustling up a Chicken Dumpling Soup and then we have to watch her eat it standing up, back to the hob, elbows tucked in, it’s just a bit sad. Not to mention the fact she looks ever so slightly resentful: she’s probably thinking about Nigella’s enorma-fridge. She could fit her entire kitchen into that thing (once all the tubs of double cream had been removed).
Still, Paris looks beautiful. There are endless shots of cool people, lounging in parks, on statues and in cafes. There are market stalls, patisseries and some guy who calls himself The King of Vegetables. The recipes are clear, easy, and sound delicious. The vanilla pods are washed and reused to spice bottles of rum. There’s an all-round good French commitment to food, and alcohol.
Last week Rachel threw a little drinks party and borrowed her mate’s house to host it in- have a guess why. Benjamin is some top restaurant star but acting as her sous-chef for a laugh. While he expertly dices watermelon, cucumber, and anything else that crosses his path, Rachel flaps around screaming ‘watch those fingers!’
To be fair, he does have a pretty massive kitchen: howns more than one chopping board and has a box of 12 eggs slung on the side, just because he can.
Apparently you can’t get away with serving crisps at a Parisian drinks gatherings. It’s all very strict: instead Rachel faffs up a load of oysters, garnishes, fresh cherries and other loveliness.
Even so, with all that champagne to soak up, a pipe of Pringles probably wouldn’t go amiss.
The Little Paris Kitchen: Cooking With Rachel Khoo is on BBC2, 8.30pm on Mondays. You can catch up on iPlayer here.