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Chef Fred FisherJim Fisher remembers very clearly the moment he became interested in food. He was three years old, in a cake shop, and in the process of falling completely in love with a pure white birthday cake. It wasn't just any cake, but his birthday cake. It looked so beautiful. It was covered in pure white icing, and it had a cherry on top. It glistened and it called to him. He wanted to marry it.

Involuntarily, a finger slowly reached out and disappeared into the soft white flank. Jim didn't want to taste the cake - that would have spoiled the surprise. It was the texture that he needed to experience. And it felt exactly as he imagined it would.

Fortunately, the telling-off he received didn't dampen the growing ember placed inside him by that siren of a confection.

Since then, Jim became fascinated with food and cooking. Eyeball to worktop, he watched his Mother make all manner of tasty things."Mum wasn't a particularly fantastic cook and had to cater very unpretentiously for my Dad, who is one of those people who just eats to live. But she was prolific and never lost her enthusiasm for food. Forever experimenting, she pushed out some highly memorable dishes over the years".

Now grown up, Jim's first job was as bar manager at the White Hart Hotel in Exeter. When the chef went sick, Jim readily jumped in and was soon at home cooking in the cramped kitchens.

Chargrilled Seabass on Fennel with a Pernod SauceA stimulating career as a London policeman followed, but . . . "After seventeen years chasing burglars and drug dealers I became increasingly aware of one thing - that, at the age of thirty-eight, I was getting far too old for that sort of malarkey!".

Cooking, as a vocation, was calling him, but he had no idea if he could 'cut it' on the modern food scene. Which is why he applied to go on the BBC's Masterchef. "I had absolutely no idea if I was any good or not, and the prospect terrified me more than being beaten senseless by a bunch of drunks at work (and that was just my fellow coppers). So, I thought I'd get some tips from the pros".

One of his judges was personal hero Rick Stein, who's first comment on seeing and tasting Jim's winning dish was nothing other than, "Wow!"

Jim was to meet his champion again when he went on to win the £5,000 first prize on the Rick Stein / Radio Times seafish cookery competition with his own original dish of Chargrilled Seabass on Fennel with a Pernod Sauce <click here>

Fred on the right, with studentsAs a consequence of all this, Jim was invited to work under the popular TV chef at his Seafood restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall where he learnt many aspects of the restaurant trade. Cooking for one hundred and twenty covers every lunch time, with even more in the evening, certainly honed Jim's cooking skills leaving him hungry for more.

A stint in the London kitchens of another TV chef, Alastair Little, extended Jim's expertise. Here, he learned the benefits of cooking great food in a simple way - Alistair Little 's own raison d'être. Jim subsequently appeared on the BBC Food and Drink programme working alongside chef Tony Tobin of Ready Steady Cook fame, cooking for one hundred and fifty guests at a charity dinner.

Now confident in his cooking, Jim grasped the nettle with both hands and promptly left the police force. "I have to admit that I shed tears the day I left. Seventeen years is an awfully long time to spend in what is effectively ones second family. I'd met, and worked with, some of the bravest, most loyal people imaginable. I'd been tested to and beyond the limit in every conceivable situation - some funny, most pretty scary. To leave was like being sent into the wilderness naked".

Jim set up Wine&Dine, a successful enterprise specialising in cooking dinner parties for people in the comfort of their own home.

Fred's cooking schoolIn partnership with Master of Wine and former wine marketing director of Sainsbury's, Julia Jenkins, he planned, prepared and cooked the meal, demonstrating the various courses. Julia selected and presented wines to go with each course. Meals were based on Jim's love of traditional regional dishes, not only from British shores, but also the Mediterranean and what has now become known as the 'Pacific Rim'.

"Though hugely popular, Wine&Dine eventually took second place to my growing desire to travel with a view to setting up a cookery school. We sold our home, bought a caravan and a one-way ferry ticket, and scoured Europe for a suitable venue".

Four years later, Jim and his family now run friendly relaxed hands-on cooking holidays in the Dordogne region of SW France from their magnificent converted barn.

"I really do pinch myself every day. My life here is so full. The area we live in is peaceful and uncrowded, and life here is conducted at such a graceful pace. Don't get me wrong, I do miss some aspects of living in Britain - well, pubs, mostly - but, I wouldn't swap it for the world. Would I go back to being a policeman? Not on your Nelly!"

The recipe which bagged the Rick Stein / Radio Times competition was for Chargrilled Seabass on Fennel with a Pernod Sauce - <click here>


Come and learn to cook on our relaxed friendly hands-on cooking holiday near Sarlat in the Dordogne, France.

Cookinfrance is a cooking holiday with a difference where you can relax and learn to cook.

Set in our magnificent converted barn in the Dordogne, we'll be cooking some great classic and contemporary dishes on your holiday, from France and around the world, in practical hands-on style. If you have ever wanted to cook and present dishes like professional and television chefs, you will be able to learn how on your cooking holiday in France.

. . . if you want to know more about Jim's cooking holidays in France then visit his web site <click here>