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Q&A: Rachel Khoo

The TV chef talks to Mark Peters about her two-seater restaurant in Paris - and introducing the French to a little Asian spice

 

What made you decide to open Paris' smallest restaurant inside your flat? "It happened because I got a book deal. I know from writing cookbooks that you have to test recipes and there is a lot of food waste, so I thought: 'Why don't I have people come round for lunch?'; that way I wouldn't waste any food and I'd get to meet new people. My apartment is not very big so I could only fit a table for two in. There's no point just telling the French that you can cook, the proof is in the pudding; if you bake them something delicious then you'll win them over."

How scary was it giving up a stable fashion PR career in London to follow your dream? "It was terrifying and exciting at the same time, because, obviously, you worry every month about paying the rent; but at the same time it's exhilarating, moving to a new country, all these exciting discoveries. It doesn't compare to my past nine-to-five job. Even though I have lived like a student for many years in Paris, my quality of life is so much better. You can't pay for an experience like that."

Has your Austrian, Chinese and Malay ancestry had an impact on your cooking style? "Definitely. I'm always looking for a way to get some spice into my cooking but, generally, the French don't like spicy food. I think my heritage makes me very open to try things, taking on different flavours, mixing it all up. I find that exciting. I grew up in a household passionate about food. In Malaysia, whenever my relatives meet someone, they don't ask, 'How you are?', they ask, 'Have you eaten?' Food was always a big thing; we'd always have a family meal together every day. As a kid I did a lot of baking with my mum. With patisserie, unlike with cooking, you have to be very precise; you can't just add a bit of this and a bit of that, because your cake starts melting. There's a lot of technique involved, but you can still be creative. Because of my artistic background, when I have that freedom I tend to do things a little bit out of the box."

Have you eaten in Hong Kong? "Unfortunately not yet. If anybody would like to invite me, I'm certainly up for that! I'd love to try all the dim sum and I hear you have one of the cheapest Michelin-star restaurants. I eat my way around a city; I'd roll from one restaurant to the next."

 

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