have always seemed to find myself by accident or design,
in a kitchen. As the youngest child of a farming family
in Cornwall I was always the one helping my mother make
butter, bread and of course pasties. As a teenager in
school we were allowed to chose between metalwork or
domestic science, as the former was taught by a notorious
sadist and the latter was full of girls and I was the
only boy in the cooking class . . . more
Whom do you most admire for their achievements?
I'll name two. First Ermes Malpighi, from very humble
beginnings, he has become the biggest producer of traditional
balsamic vinegar from Modena and its biggest promoter.
Second Vittorio Innocenti who gave up his job as a philosophy
professor to take over the family vineyard to make wonderful
wine. Both have devoted themselves to maintain a culinary
tradition, not for the money but out of passion for
what they produce.
Who is your favourite chef?
Alastair Little is someone who I greatly respect, his
cook book Keep it Simple (same as the AA motto)
is very good. He has both a very sympathetic and intellectual
approach to food.
With whom would you most like to have dinner?
We have lots of people to dinner throughout the year,
this evening I'm cooking for nine, (as some are Catholics
and this is Ash Wednesday no meat). My preferred guests
are good fun and interesting without being pompous.
Luckily there are lots like that around here.
What would be your desert island disk?
Nabuco by Giuseppe Verdi
What is your favourite British food?
Pies and pasties - I was brought up on them so they
remind me of my childhood home.
What is your favourite Italian food?
That's a difficult one as food is so seasonal here.
In the summer I would be looking forward to the Autumn
mushrooms, now I can't wait for all the spring vegetables.
I think my favourite would have to be the Pecorino sheep's
cheese, in fact as soon as I've done this I am going
to snack on some. The answers could get shorter now.
What is your favourite World food?
Stir fried veg'.
What do you like most about your job?
Being paid to take interesting people to lovely places
and eating delicious food with them.
How long have you lived and / or worked in Italy?
Twenty years full time but back and forth a lot before
How would you describe Italy to someone who's never
It's loud, colourful, cultured, civilized and surprisingly
What are, to you, Italy's main attractions?
When you live here you never stop learning about it,
especially its history and culture, my local town Cortona
has been continuously inhabited for 2700 years.
What's the best thing about Italy?
In most other countries visitors are tolerated to a
greater or lesser degree, here they are truly welcomed
as if their presence is a personal compliment to Italians
And the worst?
The bureaucracy can get to you.
When did you first move to Italy and has it changed
since you first arrived?
I first started spending a lot of time in Italy in the
seventies, women were always chaperoned, people were
a lot poorer, it was almost third world.
At what sort of place do you regularly go to eat?
I tend to eat in the less expensive trattorias, the
choice is limited but the food is always simple and
Do you miss living in the UK?
What do you miss most about not living in the UK?
What's your favourite local dish?
Tagliatta, an inch thick T-bone steak, grilled then
When did you first get involved in cooking holidays?
A: About ten years ago.
What sort of people have you looked after on cooking
All sorts, mostly British and Americans but from all
walks of life and all ages.
From time to time there must be a guest on a cooking
holiday who thinks they know more than you. How do you
Some times there are people who do know more than me,
so I try to learn. The job of a teaching Chef is not
to show how good they are, but to help other people
understand how good they can be. So if someone knows
something I don't find it a threat to my ego.
Do you think people who don't know how to cook are wasting
their time and yours going on a cooking holiday?
Not in the least, cooking has so many sides to it -
its history, cultural and agricultural origins, the
science of it. If you are no longer interested in food
you are no longer interested in life.
find out more about Jonathan's cooking holidays visit
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