MEET THE WINNERS OF OUR MALDON MASTERCLASS COMPETITION – PT. 3
Welcome to our final spotlight of the up-and-coming chefs selected for a place in our Countertalk x Maldon Salt series. We so often turn our attention to industry leaders; we hope that you’ve enjoyed the little focus thrown on some deserving people right at the start of their career.
Last month we teamed up with Maldon Salt to hold a fantastic masterclass at London’s iconic Fortnum and Mason, hosted by Michelin chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen and our own Ravneet Gill. The room was full of foodies and chef friends held in rapt attention by the stories, the insights and the incredible technique and dishes being created – and none more rapt than the front row, filled with six up-and-coming chefs – the lucky winners of our competition. Here we are interviewing Fidelia and Tilly, to give a little insight into why we chose them from the deluge of applicants.
Matilda Streatfeild is Chef de Partie at Toklas
Fidelia Osagiede Jackson is Chef de Partie at Scalini
MATILDA: My mother was a chef and is a brilliant host, I’ve always loved watching how her food would bring people together around the table – this is definitely where my love of cooking came from. I’ve spent so much of my time cooking and thinking about food that cheffing seemed to be the most obvious direction to go in. I love feeding people, so I always feel gratified to see people enjoying food I’ve cooked for them. I also love the colours of the kitchen; when particularly multi-coloured tomatoes come in, or there is a good patchwork of different ice cream flavours in the freezer, or how beetroots make everything they touch go deep pink forever.
FIDELIA: I’ve always loved food and cooking from a young age; my grandmother, my aunt and my Italian stepmother all influenced me while growing up, then, like many people, I came into hospitality when I first got a weekend job, and my passion for it grew and it has evolved. I love cooking for family and friends – it tends to be West African dishes, like Jollof rice, moi moi (steamed beans), plantains and fried beans – and Lasagne made from scratch, which is a nod to my stepmom!
FIDELIA: In the kitchen I think being female and of colour in itself is a challenge, as there are not that many of us around, getting the opportunity and being recognised. But there is such joy in getting noticed and having the door opened. Getting to be in a kitchen, getting the food out to customers always puts a smile on my face. Sometimes it can be stressful in the kitchen, as there are big personalities all vying for attention. But I try to ensure I always have some me time, to unwind and come back fresher. I love the atmosphere, the buzz of it all. I feed off of the energy and delivering the plate out just right every time.
MATILDA: The biggest and most simple joy is that I love being in the kitchen – learning and tasting and making delicious things, working with great people and giving people good food to eat; it’s a pretty nice way to spend my day. One of the simultaneous challenges and joys is that there is always more to learn – I’m amazed by how much I’ve learnt already but there’s always more. Sometimes I want to just be an expert already, but I don’t think that’s truly possible, there are always different ways to do things and other people to learn from. I think I’m nearly an expert in tiramisu though…!
I do love being a chef, but it is a stupidly demanding job. There are the silly long nocturnal hours, the redundant rushing around, the egos to manoeuvre, the adrenaline. Kitchens can be weird places to be. Cheffing is a physically and emotionally draining job and I think it’s useful to acknowledge that. There are lots of ways that we can look out for each other and create kinder and calmer kitchen environments.
FIDELIA: The women in my life inspire me so much – my grandmother Ehi. My aunt Judith and my late stepmother Veronica. Each has had a hand in raising me and bestowing their knowledge of food, which has ultimately helped in shaping who I am today.
MATILDA: Most of my culinary inspiration comes in book form; Diana Henry, Nigel Slater, Ella Risbridger, Nigella, Yasmin Khan, Saghar Setareh. I can sit and read them all for hours, dreaming about menus and meals – their recipes are wonderful and their writing even more so. I love to learn about the history and the stories that precede recipes and give them their meaning and flavour. I’m also really inspired by people trying to do some good in their cooking; people like Doug McMaster with his extreme zero-waste attitude, and Melissa Thompson who is loud and proud about challenging the lack of inclusivity and diversity in the food world.
I like to make big piles of simple food for people to share. Often a big plate of grains or beans with vegetables roasted in lots of fat, and something bright and herby on top. Or steaming bowls of risotto that have been slowly stirred and adjusted until they’re oozy and comforting. Or a pot of yellow dal that tastes slightly different every time with each new spice I find, or recipe I’m given, or thing that appears in the fridge.
MATILDA: I loved having the chance to meet and chat to other young chefs and food-oriented people, it was nice to feel a sense of community and life outside of the kitchen. It was great to watch Lisa and Rav chat as they produced these delicious plates of food, Lisa is a great teacher and showed us some different techniques from those I usually use in the kitchen. The most valuable takeaway? To salt my ice cream!
FIDELIA: I loved the energy of these two women, they were so knowledgeable and welcoming and the ease in which Lisa showcased the three dishes was incredible. There is so much more to salt and flavouring than I initially thought possible – I’m still thinking about the gorgeous ice cream she made! It really taught me to just experiment.