Eddie Shepherd has made a splash in kitchens and on internet browsers around the world with his cooking, but how did he get started?
If you’ve caught our new Christmas ad starring #TerryTheTurkey, you’ll probably understand why we’ve been looking into some turkey-free options for the festive period. And with his knock out nut roast recipe set to cook up a storm, we’ve been chatting to the Vegetarian Chef himself, Eddie Shepherd.
Earlier this month we dished up a selection of Eddie’s top cooking tips, but how did the man in question rise to the top of the veggie foodie world? We’ve been grilling Eddie all about how he first got into the kitchen, as well as asking for his advice on behalf of any budding chefs out there…
‘Hugely rewarding, but incredibly hard work…’
“When I was a philosophy student I started working in kitchens to put myself through university,” says Eddie. “but once I graduated I’d fallen in love with cooking so much that I knew I wanted to immerse myself in it. I worked my way up in a number of kitchens, learning as much as possible, and in my spare time I would obsessively read cook books and even use my holidays to go and work in other restaurants for free just to get more experience.”
So it’s clear that Eddie had a culinary appetite right from the off, but what sets Eddie apart from the pack is that he’s doesn’t cook or eat meat:
“I went vegetarian when I was 18 or 19,” he tells us. “I was feeling uncomfortable with eating meat and a number of issues surrounding that, so it was the right decision for me. And of course now it’s linked into my career!”
Eddie’s since found huge favour with vegetarian foodies the world over, having won awards, published several books and blogged about his passions to a big audience. He also runs the unique restaurant ‘The Walled Gardens’ in Manchester, which seats just eight people a night. And like that slightly offbeat supper club, Eddie believes that cooking is all about experimentation:
“I love the creative process of working on a new dish and then the excitement of seeing it come together into something new and unique. Of course, I really enjoy cooking for my guests and hopefully giving people a great experience, but the creative process of working on new ideas is what keeps me motivated and inspired.”
We’ve all got our muses, but who are Eddie’s cooking heroes?
“Grant Achatz and the chefs at Alinea are hugely inspiring,” he says, talking about the Michelin 3-star eatery in Chicago, which was once voted ‘Best Restaurant in America’. “I saw Grant give a talk a number of years ago at a culinary conference in Spain,” Eddie explains, “then I got the Alinea cookbook and it blew my mind what they were doing. Their food is the most intricate, exciting and beautiful I’ve ever seen. It really motivated me to push myself and it had a big influence on the aesthetic of how I present food.”
But what if Eddie is your culinary hero? What advice can he pass on to all the budding chefs out there – vegetarian or no?
“Anyone going into the industry should know that it can be a hugely rewarding and fantastic career, but that it is also incredibly hard work. For the first few years at least you’ll probably work very long hours for little pay or recognition. But if you love cooking, put in the graft and learn as much as possible, it can be a great life.
“For home cooks wanting to push themselves and learn a bit more, there are some great cookery schools and courses out there. Investing a bit of time on organising your kitchen, as well as spending some money on getting a good knife and other good basic equipment can make a huge difference to how enjoyable your time in the kitchen is.”
Nuts about nut roasts
For most of us, mobile tech is a great way of being close to the ones you love, even if their far away this Christmas, and Eddie’s no different in that regard. However, he also uses his devices to keep his kitchen in order…
“I use my phone and tablet a huge amount in my work,” he tells us. “They keep my life organised – I store all my recipes in the cloud so I can access them at any time. I’ve published several digital cookbooks myself that include a lot of photography and video, too.
“Digital cookbooks and apps have some great unique features,” he says. “They’re cheap, can be full of great imagery, and they’re portable on people’s mobile devices. They’re definitely an exciting development, but I think there will always be a place for printed cookbooks; there’s definitely still something special about physically having a cookbook in your hands and seeing the images in print.”
And lastly, the big question: does Eddie think the humble nut roast can replace turkey on our Christmas dinner table, as suggested in our festive advert?
“It can definitely have a place as part of a big Christmas dinner,” he tells us. “Christmas is so much about tradition and comfort that people want what’s familiar and what they associate with a traditional Christmas, but I think an updated nut roast can definitely fit in with that… So long as it’s not a dry lentil loaf and there are loads of great Christmassy veg sides too. And of course, roast potatoes!”
Let’s get cooking… You can check out Eddie’s top cooking tips right here.