So, a couple of weeks ago we heard from the Doughman himself, Isaac. It’s now time for Rob to be interrogated on all things life and pasta.
I: Right then Mr Flavour, tell us about yourself. As Cilla Black used to ask, ‘What’s your name and where do you come from?’
R: Hello! So obviously my name’s Rob, I’m 27 and I’m originally from an area north of
Cambridge known as the Fens, which for anyone who doesn’t know is the agricultural heart of the area, incredibly flat and probably most famous for it’s inbreeding reputation. Make of that what you will!
I am a lawyer by trade but obviously a chef by weekend as you know and similarly, like you I play a lot of football and golf when I can. I’m also big into music as well, I’m always listening to music in one form or the other.
So yeah, I moved to Cambridge after university and have lived here around Mill Road for the last five years and just enjoying all the incredible independent food and drink spots that Mill Road has to offer.
I: So, you claim to be big on your flavours, what are your favourite combinations? Which foods are just destined to be together in a long and fruitful marriage?
R: So, obviously the first flavour combination that I guess comes to mind, especially when we’re cooking our Italian style dishes would have to be chilli and garlic cooked in either butter or some good olive oil. You can never really go wrong when this is the base that you can then add a bit more to and build upon.
I also love anything with a nutty flavour, so you know like our chestnut and prosciutto dish is one that we sort of made up backwards from me thinking “I want to use chestnuts in a dish” to then working out what would go well with that - so you know combining it with the earthy taste of asparagus and the saltiness from the meat is really good...well we think it is at least!
A go-to resource for me is a book called The Flavour Thesaurus which I’d totally recommend to anyone thinking of getting into cooking or looking to combine flavours because it has this spectrum or colour wheel of flavours that help you pair up what goes with what.
I: Have you always been into cooking or was it a skill born out of necessity?
R: Well, I’d say it wasn’t really until university that I started really enjoying cooking and trying to experiment and do a bit more, so I guess in that sense you could say it was more out of necessity. On the other hand though, I think my love for cooking comes from my mum who has always worked as a cook and I think I learnt from her as she never really follows recipes, just a pinch of this and a splash of that. I think this has helped give me some independence in the kitchen and to work with what I’ve got. So yeah I think it’s with that attitude and through trial and error you learn to love cooking and it gives you that bit of confidence to go for it and try new things!
I: What are your favourite aspects of the whole food startup venture? What have you learnt and what advice would you give to anyone thinking about doing the same?
R: Very good question. I mean aside from loving the cooking, I won’t go into that again but that’s the key reason we do this. I guess other than that, the best bit is obviously… well what I say to people is that us hanging out and cooking isn’t that different to what we’d be doing if we hadn’t started this. We hang out most weekends anyway so It’s just nice to be able to meet up and cook with a mate, chat shit and listen to some music as we go so that’s always good fun. It’s been fun running the Instagram as well, trying to get better at food photography and just being creative with the website and blogs. So yeah it’s given us a great chance to develop some skills that we never would’ve done in our day jobs.
In terms of advice, I’d say just go for it, we talked about this for so long and only just got underway. Also, just let it happen organically and have fun with it - don’t try and force anything too much. I’d say just try and take good photos, I look back at some of ours at the beginning and they were pretty terrible but we’ll never take them down because it shows what we’ve learnt and how we’ve improved along the way. Importantly as well, don’t take yourself too seriously, that’s something we’ve always had in mind, we’ve never claimed to be authentic Italian chefs, we’re just two lads cooking what we enjoy and trying to have a laugh along the way.
I: Who are your favourite people to follow on the socials for food inspiration and just general mouth watering goodness?
R: I mean obviously we’re spoilt for choice now with all the content out there and who to follow for food inspiration. I think for us, even years back the starting place was always MOB Kitchen with their solid recipes and then from that we obviously love the content @WhatWillyCook is creating and the cool stuff he’s doing with food. Other people locally are @chefkevin_ from Modigliani in Cambridge - he’s always putting up incredible posts of his pastas and desserts that always look banging. Also I try not to limit myself to following people who are just doing pasta although that is helpful, It’s good to see what other foodies are doing, what works for them and what other things we can draw on. Talking about good content, we’ve obviously gotta give a shout out to @BadBoyPizzaSoc - their videos and stuff, they’re always churning out top content.
I: Let's finish off with the ideal FP dinner party again. Three guests - real or not, dead or alive, who's coming and what tipple are they bringing if it’s BYOB? Also what’s the soundtrack for your dinner party?
R: Right then...This is always a hard one as it depends what kinda vibe you want to go for at your dinner party. I tell you what, the first one I’d go for would be Berry Gordy - the founder of Motown, he’s probably a pretty cool guy but he kind of symbolizes that whole genre and there are so many people from that era that I would love to meet. We could sit and chat about some music and his background and stuff. That’d be pretty cool. For tipple, he’s a classy man I reckon he’s bringing some vintage whisky. I don’t like whisky at all but weirdly I love Old Fashioned cocktails so maybe I could have one of them with him.
Secondly, would be James Acaster - such a funny guy and also a foodie so plenty to talk about there. Always good to have a comedian at the table other than myself obviously... He’s probably bringing a four-pack of Red Stripe he picked up at the offy on the way here.
Finally, and I’m going for a fictional one here, it’d be Samwise Gamgee [from Lord of the Rings for those who don’t know]. What a man. I feel like I don’t even need to explain this one. The stories he’d tell, we could talk about our mutual love of potatoes, just a great guy. Also I could ask him advice on how to put up with a whiny little sidekick which is something I have a lot of experience with these days, so maybe I could pick up some tips there. I’d like to think he’d bring a really nice bitter ale, like a proper session drink.
For the soundtrack I’d go straight to my vinyl collection - yeah I’m one of those guys. I’d start with something from Motown. Probably my favourite genre, good background music but can also be a bit more lively if you want. Some Diana Ross or Marvin Gaye to start things off. Also Tom Misch’s beat tapes make great background music, such a good vibe, similarly Khruangbin make amazing vibey music. Finally something from Leon Bridges. That man has the voice of an angel.