How to be successfully spontaneous

How to be successfully spontaneous

5 minute read

Cooking is a pretty committed profession.

The demands of feeding people breakfast, lunch and dinner frequently entails rising at dawn, and knocking off around midnight. Sometimes you allow yourself to sit down for five minutes to bolt a plate of something forgettable, but this isn’t typical, and is entirely dependent on how far you’ve managed to chip away at a mountainous list of pressing tasks. Yet at the end of a long day, as I creep towards the exit, inevitably waylaid by happy guests, I’m frequently told how happy I look. Yes, I reply, I’m very happy. Oh I envy you the pleasure your work gives you, they say, but I couldn’t possibly do it. Why, I ask, thinking of the sheer physical demands of the profession? No, they conclude, because it would take all the fun and spontaneity out of cooking.

I can completely relate to this. Our apprehension about professionalising something in which we take an amateur’s pleasure is profoundly engrained in our national sensibility.

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The idea that sport should be played for glory, not riches, still echoes in every hysterical tabloid headline savaging footballers for demanding raises from their extraordinarily wealthy teams. I admire, in an increasingly materialistic world, a philosophical appreciation of a task entered into, simply for its own sake, with no possibility of financial reward. However to say that the application of foresight and planning removes all the joy from cooking is a profound misconception. The opportunity to commit prolonged thought to events forthcoming, and to conceive of and execute an exactingly plotted extravagance, this is one of life’s great and unimpeachable joys.

Planning a big dinner at one of my restaurants, for the birthday of someone I love dearly, several months hence, writing the menu, creating a dish, unique for them, writing up the recipes, ordering the wine, arranging the tables, briefing the staff, pulling it off, and making it look entirely effortless – this is one of the greatest professional joys it is ever my privilege to revel in.

Ultimately I think this is slightly the point; we don’t want anyone to see how much work we’ve put in. We want all our endeavors to appear effortless. It is not entirely chic to be seen to sweat over a dinner – I certainly have never pulled off a service with anything approaching insouciance. But this is exactly why planning and preparation are so crucial to achieving maximum effect for minimum effort. To be able to sweep someone off their feet with a devastatingly spontaneous display of extravagant affection, is only ever achieved by making sure you have a few staples and necessary essentials on hand.

There should always be a bottle of really delicious red wine within easy reach, a sublime Bordeaux blend or Pinot Noir for instance.

One should always, for instance, have a bottle of fizz chilled in the fridge. Life is full of small indignities and crushing let-downs, and its rare glimmers of hope and satisfaction need a chilled bottle of good Champagne, Prosecco, Cava or Cremant on hand with which to toast their occasion.

So too should there always be a bottle of really delicious red wine within easy reach, a sublime Bordeaux blend or Pinot Noir for instance, for when the light fades, the candles flicker, and the conversation and its further possibilities become thrillingly limitless. And a chilled bottle of something crisp and white and bracing, for an enlivening refresher at the end of a long day, for a ready accompaniment to a simple lunch of fine cheese and good bread, occasionally for breakfast… but I digress.

A well stocked store cupboard of ingredients for simple, satisfying and delicious meals knocked up in a moment should be considered essential to every cook. However it is utterly diminished without the complimentary presence of a few good bottles of excellent wine. Buy them now, love them later. Planned spontaneity.

Trust me, I’m a professional.


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Never get caught short again. Plan your spontaneity wisely with a 5% discount on 6 and a 7.5% discount on 12.


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