Gary Rhodes interview

Having explored the cuisines of India and China, Gary packed his bags again to journey round the Caribbean. There he discovered a whole host of foodie treats, including stews, spices and flying fish, and picked up some new tricks. He also learnt about the far-flung influences that have affected the local food and cooked a feast for the Prime Minister of Grenada. Here he tells about his latest culinary adventures...

You were always the definitive British cook – pork pies, scotch eggs, black pudding. How have the cuisines of China, India and the Caribbean affected your cooking?

"It's been a culinary education for me. What's kept me in (this industry) for over 30 years is that you just keep on learning."

Have you implemented in your own restaurants any of the techniques you've learned?

"I remember being taught to make a curried dish in India. They have all the spices you might cook at home with onion for five minutes. They said, no, we want these cooking for 20 minutes to draw out every bit of rawness. The same thing happened in the Caribbean – a lot of strong flavours but cooking methods that complement the main ingredient."

Your stepfather is Jamaican – what had your experience of Caribbean food been before this trip?

"As a young lad I was introduced to rice and peas and in particular (my stepfather's) beef curry. Although I found it too hot and fiery when I was a kid, now I can’t get enough of it!"

Has it been difficult spending time away from your family in these far-flung exotic locations?

"After Jamaica, John (my stepfather) flew off with Jenny my wife to Grenada while I travelled the rest of the islands, so I think they had quite a nice little break!"

Who cooks while you're away?

"My wife was a professional chef. We met during our college days. She's a damn good cook and does most of the cooking, but to be honest I'm never there in the evenings – I get home a bit past supper time!"

Do you still think of yourself as a 'British' cook at heart?

"There's no two ways about that. I got involved with British food in the mid-Eighties and I've never got rid of that."

As much of the food in the Caribbean caters towards the American tourist market, did you find it hard to find the genuine article?

"I think we were very lucky. The mentors I was working with were from the islands and consequently were showing us food they'd been brought up on as kids."

History plays an intrinsic part in food – how has this affected what they eat in the Caribbean today?

"Every island is so different. French influences, a lot of African, Indian – even some from the Far East – and then you had Curacao. You could have been in Holland."

Is there any one moment of the trip which summed it all up?

"I'll never forget being in Trinidad and eating something called doubles. You get two little pancakes and in between them you've got a chickpea stew, it was a sensation!"

Where next for Gary Rhodes?

"We're talking about doing Rhodes Across Thailand. It's a place I've never been and I don't really know enough about Thai food. That would be an amazing experience – but who knows."

Rhodes Across The Caribbean starts at 9pm on April 6 on UKTVFood.

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