Food cooking and eating – stories and ideas from a passionate foodie

Archive for August, 2011

Food gifts

It’s that time of year.  Some of our friends have vegetable patches.  And they will often make a gift of their produce to family and friends.  It is such a joy – and what better gift can there be than food?

Last week it was Wendy and Gus – friends who moved to Cornwall, who we used to know as neighbours in Beaconsfield (near London).  We had various salads, a few tomatoes, courgettes and some rhubarb.  The leaves and courgettes went very well with a flash fried steak.  I did the courgettes in quite big chunks and stir fried them in olive oil for just 2 minutes.  They were fab – just sucked in flavour – and really loved a bit of black pepper.  They were fresh and juicy enough to just be a salad themselves – but warmed – the extra taste and just smell of unctuous gorgeousness was well worth it.

But what to do with the rhubarb?  We’d had rhubarb crumple.  So, I simply stewed it but with the addition of preserved ginger in syrup – chopped up a lot.  I poured about a dessert spoon of the syrup in with the chopped up rhubarb and ginger, added a spoon or two of water and 5 teaspoons of sugar – low heat on the hob for 10 minutes.  Fabulous!  And made the ice cream seem rather superfluous.

There was some left over.  had that with lunch today, cold with some cream.  Tasted stronger and was more refreshing somehow.  Funny – some things are better at different temperatures, and maybe depends on our mood too?

SO, on the way home from holidays we popped into our local –  to be presented with a bag of runner beans, hot off the beanpole.  through the bean-slicer, chopped a bit, 5 minutes boiling, then lots of butter lemon juice and black pepper.

The great thing with fresh produce like this is that it is not only lovingly cared for it is generously given.  Which seems to make it taste better.  But best of all, you only need to keep it simple and crunchy to keep all the flavours that the grower wanted to keep.  Hope you get some gifts too!

Some grown, some given

Cool friend – Peter Cook – The Rock’n’Roll Business Guru

Cool friend – Peter Cook – The Rock’n’Roll Business Guru

Rock’n’Roll and business guru do not feel like happy bed fellows in the same sentence.  I have seen Peter Cook in his various guises, and have enjoyed being thought provoked by his stage performances. It really does make you think in a very different way – and I wanted to dig a little further into this seeming dichotomy – is there really a link between business and Rock’n’Roll that organisations can learn from? OK – I had bought his book as well – because “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” is an intriguing title, isn’t it?  I wanted to find out more, so interviewed Peter about how this all fits together.

Peter – what’s your unique difference?

I bring three things together in ways that are hard to beat:  Years of experience working as a  scientific R&D Leader and troubleshooter on a worldwide basis; very qualified in business and management both as a practising leader and business academic at MBA level and; the x-factor of writing and performing music.  The first two may be in reasonable distribution, but the third ingredient gives be a hard to copy edge.  There are many parallel lessons from music and leading edge ideas from the world’s business school.   My science background also gives me a hard edge to critique so-called advances in business and management theory, some of which are just fads.  It’s a confusing world out there with many ‘great pretenders’ attempting to sell ‘wonder cures’ for leadership and business.  Our approach is about what works and fits with a particular company culture, not an attempt to install ‘business plug-ins’ rather like the way we use memory sticks on computers.  It simply does not work in the long term.

You style yourself as “The Rock’n’Roll Business Guru” – what’s that all about? – And do people always ‘get it’?

I deliberately chose these words since they pinpoint the ‘sweet spot’ or nexus of business thinking and music.  For example, in music, people tend to like songs that remind us of music we already own e.g. The Beatles and Oasis, Madonna and Lady Gaga. The same is true in business and marketing.  People invent new products and services that don’t have a ring of “the familiar” at their peril, unless they have sufficient money to force them into existence.  One of the things we do is to help clients improve the success rate and impact of their innovations.

Somewhat sadly, people do usually ‘get it’.  I say sadly, since my regular experience is that people know more about rock and pop music than they do the great and good of business and management thinking.  It should be the other way round if you are a serious business leader.  I usually smile a little when people the world over can recite all the words to Bohemian Rhapsody, but they don’t know anything about what Tom Peters, Charles Handy or Peter Drucker said on management, as happened recently at one event I ran for some people, where we actually got 600 people singing the Queen song with a Ukelele.  Check this out: 

How has this approach worked in organisations – is it a practical model of thinking?

99% of the time it works just fine.  On the few occasions over 17 years where it has not been popular, clients have had a distorted view of what I do – thinking it to be pure entertainment or some kind of ‘corporate x-factor’, despite the fact that I always go to great lengths to explain that it is both intelligent and fun and not a circus act.   There are plenty of those out there.  It has worked well in some fairly heavyweight organisations.  We have done global science conferences for Pfizer blending ideas about creativity from science with music.  We recently have delivered Riffs and Myths of Leadership to Imperial College Business School, Laing O’Rourke, University of Kent and Ashridge Business School.  Here’s a clip of an aftershow event we ran for Unilever in Rome following a strategy keynote and teambuilding event.

You know that I link cooking to order and business level thinking – do you have a favourite meal you can share with us?

For a great winter dish, I don’t think you can beat my cheese, onion and potato pie.  In summer, I’m rather partial to coleslaw made with Kohlrabi.  Another light favourite is pan-fried Jerusalem artichokes with fresh garlic.  We are fortunate to have Luddesdown Organic Farm – a great supplier of organic produce who have expanded our taste buds beyond expectation.

Where can we find out more?

My new book “Punk Rock People Management – A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff” is available FREE by contacting me via the website

We also have my current book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll”, acclaimed by Tom Peters available on AMAZON – so basically my message is ‘buy one, get one free’.

More details of our corporate events and musical experiences at My serious business consultancy, training and coaching website

Phil and I occasionally work together as The Two Cooks, delivering exceptional corporate events and keynote speeches that blend business, music and cooking.



TV appearance!

A couple of months ago, I appeared as a contestant on Britain’s Best Dish.  This is a show on ITV, around tea-time, which is a competition to find which amateur cook can produce this year’s best Dish in Britain.  The prize is substantial – £10 000 for the winner – and the dish is put on the menu at The London Hilton for a month.  That’s a bit prestige!

The show is regionally set – so there are 4 heats in South east, South West North East North West Scotland and Ireland.  That’s a lot of people – because there are head -to-heads each day of starter, main course and pudding – 6 people per day.  then regional finals on each Friday, then semi finals, then grand final of 6.

It was very scary.  Overnight in hotel – sleeping badly.  Then picked up at 6.45 a.m., signing in, make up, interviews, checking your equipment, studio orientation, rules, checking no logos on your clothes, more interviews (“Why do you think you will win?”), studio shots back to back with your head to head person, with director trying to get you to look a bit serious and angry, then suddenly it’s off.  45 minutes for starters.  I did “Orange Infused Chicken Liver Pate, with warm griddle scones and a crunchy salad”.  Recipe still on ITV web-site:

(may need to cut and paste into address bar)

Considering we had been there since 7.00, it felt very full on even though it was now 11.00!

Naturally, you have tried many times to get the whole timing thing right.  But it is so different in a studio.  Everything is weighed out for you already, and liquids are measured out.  There were too many of some things, and not enough of others.  You had to put anything you had finished with out of shot – and a helper would take it away.  You had to cook in one slot for the camera – it was only then I realised I often work in two spots in my own kitchen – so it felt very constraining.

It worked really well.  The judges are in the room watching you work live – and bugger me if you can’t hear their comments as you are cooking.  “Don’t know why he is putting the soda bread into that – it is going to ruin it”.  This is not a good thing to hear when you are just starting off…

Anyway, as you will see from the video, I won my head to head.  Only half of the ‘winners’ go through to the next round – and I was in the wrong 50%!  It was a great experience though, and I do like being on TV.

See what you think.  Link below, and embedded too.

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