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Meet Chef James Oakley, a celebrated chef and author who has been making waves in the culinary industry for over a decade. With experience working in restaurants, hotels, and resorts around the world, Chef James has honed his skills and developed a unique style that is all his own.
He is also a mentor to aspiring chefs and shares his knowledge and expertise with the next generation of culinary professionals.
In this interview, Chef James Oakley shares his passion for cooking, his favorite ingredient, and his approach to creating dishes. He emphasizes the importance of using fresh, seasonal ingredients and taking one’s time when cooking.
Chef James also offers tips for beginner cooks and recommends budget-friendly ingredients like Indonesian Tempeh.
He hopes to inspire people to cook for themselves and share their experiences, using their own senses and natural lighting to capture their culinary creations in photographs.
Read our exclusive interview with Chef James Oakley now!
What follows is an interesting interview with the Cooking influencer.
1. Please Tell Us a Little About Yourself and How You Got Into Cooking
I was born in Ipswich, a small town in Suffolk, east Anglia, England. Some of my fondest childhood memories were weekends spent with my grandmother in her countryside home, she kept chickens, grew strawberries and had a big bramley apple tree in the garden, she would often take us along the hedgerows foraging for wild ingredients, we would refer to it as a treasure hunt, I suppose we were hunting for treasure in a sense, it was nature’s treasure.
My grandmother was a fantastic cook, she could cook anything, she helped me to build a relationship with food, a deeper understanding of where food comes from, how it grows and how seasonal changes affect ingredients and their availability.
2. What is Your Favorite Ingredient to Work With and Why?
I apologize if this seems a little boring but my favorite ingredient is the humble egg.
I recently went on a voyage of culinary exploration and became fascinated with plant based dining, developing many new recipes and techniques, the 1 ingredient I found impossible to truly replace was the egg, nothing compares to the complexity or acts in the same way as the humble egg especially when it comes to baking.
Yes certain ingredients can behave in a similar way or produce a similar textural result for some items but it is just not the same!
It just frustrated me to think it would have been better with eggs!
3. What Are Your Favorite Types of Recipes to Create and Share, and Why?
This is a very difficult question to answer, my culinary interests are so broad and diverse. I love creating beautiful, technically intricate dishes for the restaurant but I equally love creating and sharing delicious humble cooking recipes similar to what one’s grandmother may prepare. Both styles are and need to be equally delicious!
4. What is Your Favorite Kitchen Tool or Gadget and Why?
I would say your greatest asset or tool in the kitchen is your own senses. The sizzling sound as you place something in the pan indicates it is hot, the scent can tell you it is caramelized, visually you can see if something is golden brown, you can feel if something is cool, warm or hot and thus ready or not!
5. Please Share Any Cooking Tips or Techniques You Think Are Important for Beginners.
Take your time, good food is not fast food and fast food is not good food!
The best food is made using ingredients that allow the time to naturally ripen to their peak, prepared with love over a period of time. Nothing is ever as good as it could be if rushed the best results are those which you invest your time in.
6. Can You Walk Us Through Your Cooking Process, From Selecting Ingredients to Plating the Finished Dish?
Usually I will venture into the local markets to find the best produce at the peak of its season.
I like to create dishes using 3 key flavors, I like the flavor profile to be simple, not confusing. I will then create complexity representing those flavors using different techniques and textures.
7. Can You Talk About Any Culinary Experiences or Travel That Have Influenced Your Cooking?
I have been very fortunate to work in many countries with varying cooking styles, I believe that cooking is an extension of oneself and the food we cook should represent that.
I am English, my wife Indonesian, I have worked and lived in England, Jersey, Wales, Malta, Australia, Thailand and Hong kong all of these cultural experiences have shaped me as a person and I hope this also comes across in my cooking.
8. Can You Recommend Some Budget-friendly Ingredients That Can Be Used in a Variety of Dishes?
Indonesian Tempeh (a type of fermented soybean) is my go to budget ingredient, it is very versatile and can be used in a range of dishes such as curries, stir frys and many more.
Also consider wild food growing in your area foraging for ingredients is exciting and great for cooking on a budget. (however please make sure you have a guide and you are 100%certain the plant is edible some plants may look delicious but in fact can be very harmful)
9. What Advice Would You Give to Someone Who Wants to Improve Their Cooking Skills?
I believe in cooking that we never stop learning and something can be learnt from every chef or cook. There is not necessarily a right or wrong way to do anything, many differing methods can achieve similar results.
Listen and learn from everyone, when you have an extensive repertoire of skills you can then determine what works best for you.
10. Can You Share Some Tips on How to Plate and Present Dishes Like a Professional Chef?
In my opinion it is important not to over complicate the presentation, try to keep the presentation clean, I feel over complicated presentations can appear messy.
I take a lot of inspiration from nature and try to make my dishes a visual representation of the ingredients’ natural environment.
11. What Do You Hope People Take Away From Your Blog, and How Do You Want to Inspire Them in the Kitchen?
When sharing, I hope others will be inspired to cook for themselves, I hope my experiences will inspire others to share and promote constructive dialogue.
12. What Equipment Do You Use for Your Food Photography, and Do You Have Any Tips for Taking Great Food Photos?
I mostly take food shots on my smartphone. Most modern smartphones have a very good camera, only if I were preparing dishes for a book or high profile press release would I consider using a professional photographer.
In my opinion good lighting is essential, also try not to edit or apply too many filters to your pictures, try to keep the image as natural as possible.
Chef James Oakley’s dedication to cooking is inspiring, and his tips for beginner cooks and budget-friendly ingredients make his culinary creations accessible to everyone.
He hopes to inspire people to cook for themselves and share their experiences, using their own senses and natural lighting to capture the beauty of their culinary creations.
So, discover the magic of home cooking, and venture on a flavorful journey with Chef James Oakley by your side.
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