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CHEF JIM FISHER ASK THE CHEF

Five years ago I had a secure job, a modern house on a safe street in a nice provincial English town and my eight year old daughter went to a progressive school. I lived the quintessential cosy suburban life. So comfortable was this life that I actually couldn't wait to get out because, for me, it wasn't really a life at all: it was dull existence.

Jim Fisher was a self-taught chef before reaching the semi-final of BBC Masterchef . . . more info

Q: Whom do you most admire for their achievements?

A: Rick Stein, because he's a self-taught chef having started his restaurant business in that culinary vacuum called the "seventies" cooking fish which, to this day, is still the least popular food in the UK. He's also brought his own charming, gently intelligent slant on cookery to a nation not known for its cooking prowess.

Q: Who is your favourite chef?

A: See above (and also Jamie Oliver, because he's made cooking real food so accessible to a generation of kids in imminent mortal danger of becoming junk food morons).

Q: With whom would you most like to have dinner?

A: Keith Floyd

Q: What would be your desert island disk?

A: Saens Sans (French composer): exquisite, dramatic, emotionally-charged turn of the century classical.

Q: What is your favourite British food?

A: Toad in the Hole with Mashed Potato and Onion Gravy (or a fried egg and bacon sandwich made with processed sliced white bread!).

Q: What is your favourite Italian food?

A: Spaghetti Vongole

Ever fancied a cooking holiday? Ever fancied learning
to make bread - www.cookingholidays.co.uk

Q: What is your favourite World food?

A: Curry

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: At the risk of sounding trite it's the fact that it doesn't seem like a job: I'm in the enviable position of doing for a living what I would do as my prime hobby.

Q: How long have you lived and / or worked in France?

A: Six years. Came here with a one way ticket on the hovercraft and have only been back twice (and didn't like it - apart from the pubs, of course!).

Q: How would you describe France to someone who's never visited it?

A: Hmmm . . . a hard one that as it's a country of contrast and paradox: the scenery's beautiful, the roads empty, the people laid back. You can get a five course meal for a tenner, but a second hand car costs way over the odds. It has a relaxing pace, but can be a tad too soporific when you want to get things done: the French are easy-going on the surface, but real sticklers for rules. A country of surprises, but one that resists change.

Q: What are, to you, France's main attractions?

A: Great value food, very little crime, and few traffic jams.

Q: What's the best thing about France?

A: Relatively cheap, but desirable, properties to buy (still). Great value eating-out. The weather.

Q: And the worst?

A: The bureucracy. Dogs. Peeing in public.

Q: When did you first move to France and has it changed since you first arrived?

A: April 13th 2000. No - which is one of the reasons we like it.

Q: At what sort of place do you regularly go to eat?

A: For lunch you can't beat the Relais Routier (transport cafes) where customers - burly tattoo-festooned lorry drivers, and busy tradesmen - eat regularly.

For dinner: family run Ferme Auberges where, in order to be called a Ferme Auberges, they are legally obliged to serve dishes who's ingredients are 90% produced or grown on the premises.

Q: Do you miss living in the UK?

A: Sometimes, but I don't miss the anti-social behaviour and the congestion.

Q: What do you miss most about not living in the UK?

A: Ease of communication. The sense of humour. Pubs. Curry.

Q: What's your favourite local dish?

A: Main course: Confit d'Canard (salted duck legs slow-cooked in their own fat). Dessert: Crème Brûlée.

Q: When did you first get involved in cooking holidays?

A: When we moved to France in 2000. We intended from the outset to run cooking holidays, and it's paid off.

Q: What sort of people have you looked after on cooking holidays?

A: We get the whole gamut of the food-loving world: veggies, carnivores, people with food allergies such as coeliac and shellfish-intolerant, novices, budding chefs, singles, couples. People from as far afield as Iceland to Australia, from Dubai to Hong Kong.

Q: From time to time there must be a guest on a cooking holiday who thinks they know more than you. How do you handle them?

A: If you try to 'handle' them you won't win because you just come across as appearing bossy, arrogant or confrontational. The easiest, and simplest, way is to let the other guests defend you, which they will readily do: no-body likes a show-off! In general though, our guests have been some of the nicest people I've had the pleasure to meet.

Q: Do you think people who don't know how to cook are wasting their time and yours going on a cooking holiday?

A: No. On the contrary, these are the people who gain most from coming on a cooking holiday because they often have no pre-conceived, ingrained ideas about food and cooking and they really want to learn. This means they are often able to approach food and cooking with a much more open attitude than 'seasoned' cooks.

To find out more about Jim's cooking holidays visit www.cookinfrance.com

Email Hub-UK : info@hub-uk.com