Growing up, food was very much a ‘necessity’ as my mother was not a fan of the kitchen! It wasn’t until I first visited Italy as an adult that I realised that eating home-grown food and the whole ceremony of sitting down for a long leisurely meal made it a whole different event for me. I will never forget my first just-picked, warm from the sun, Italian tomato or fig. Or the mad Italian across a table from me in a cafe in Conegliano in the Veneto, enthusing with so many hand gestures I had no time to remember which one was which, explaining about his homemade cheese that was carefully wrapped in nettles and buried in the countryside for months on end. Food was pretty much brought alive for me from that point on.
Years later, whilst living in London, I was lucky enough to work for la cucina Caldesi Cookery School in Marylebone. It was there that my passion was fuelled further by being able to work with a succession of regional Italian chefs from the Amalfi coast, Sardinia and Venice. Combine that with the energy and variety of what was happening within one mile of where I lived – The Marylebone Farmers Market, The Ginger Pig, La Fromagerie, The Natural Kitchen and The Providores – and there was no hope for me. The seed was sown for The Jericho Kitchen (albeit in another location).
I moved back to Oxford several years ago to work for Jamie’s Italian in their first restaurant here, although I didn’t last very long. It is a young person’s game! I was, however, the lucky recipient of several one-to-one lessons with the ever youthful and energetic Gennaro Contaldo. He would come up, retrieve me from the office and take me to the kitchen – come on Emma, I have a wonderful piece of pork belly. Let me show you how we do it in Italy! His passion was addictive, from a simple of bowl of Ribollita he would make me, or jumping in a taxi with him to the Cowley Road to get authentic ingredients. I wanted to impart that to all and sundry who would listen.
So, after a food journey of some 30 years, I am finally here, having opened the doors to The Jericho Kitchen Cookery School just outside Oxford in January 2015. I look forward to meeting you in the future.
Owner of the Jericho Kitchen and food addict!