Public Speaking: Michelle Le Goff, Ginger & Parsley

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The Kentish Town chef on her food business, how Chinese women express love – and why she never tires of living locally


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“Females still tend to be the natural carers in the family.” Photo: PR

Travel has inspired my love of cooking. I’ve lived in Hong Kong, Australia and Paris. I started cooking aged six, making steamed fish and stir-fry vegetables for my family using produce we bought from trolleys that market people pushed down the street. There wasn’t much spice in Hong Kong: you had ginger, garlic, and a few shallots.

Waitressing at my uncle’s Thai restaurant in Australia introduced me to Asian spices. I still call him up to discuss recipes. And then in Paris, besides French food, I also enjoyed the Vietnamese and North African restaurants. This inspired me to create a range of cuisines in my new business, which is focused on creating healthy frozen meals.

Chinese women express their love through food. My passion for cooking would probably not have turned into a profession if my mother had not encouraged me to cook at such a young age. She’s a traditional Chinese mother who believes every woman must learn how to cook for the family. Whenever she visits us in London, she cooks everything.

London is truly a metropolitan city. It has been my home since 2008. People are always working, working, working, but they will talk to you in the shops. Where I live, in Kentish Town, it’s green and quiet, and has great independent retailers. It is a city that keeps evolving; when I first arrived nine years ago it was very hard to find decent coffee, but now there’s possibly too much choice. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of living here.

Getting older requires less clutter. When I’m at home I’m relaxed. All the clutter we had when we were younger has gone. My interiors style is rustic, cosy and simple: pared-back wood, greys and whites. I can sit and work quite peacefully in my dining room looking out to my neighbour’s garden.

Michelle’s Vietnamese yellow chicken curry. Photo: PR

I’ve always loved animals. I like their ability to make you feel calm, take away stress. My Siberian Forest cat is my companion. He is my shadow: he sleeps on my chest, waits patiently for me to get up, then sits outside the shower. I called him Filou: in French it means naughty, which suits him perfectly.

I’m greedy. I enjoy eating and constantly look out for new food to try. I’ll eat a lot of vegetables but a simple bowl of pasta is good enough for me. My vices are salted caramel ice-cream and wine. When I’m creating new recipes I probably try a new dish five times to perfect it. My love of eating has meant that I offer generous portions in our dishes.

My perception of Australia has changed. It is a great country if you like fresh fish and of course the sunshine is great for growing fresh – large – produce without the use of pesticides. Everyone is very chilled, which made me super chilled, I don’t easily get stressed out. But I’ve realised that, although Australians seem more relaxed, they don’t embrace different cultures in the same way that London does.

Creating a new recipe is like composing an orchestra piece. I look at what we’ve got on the menu to see what’s missing and what will fit in. Do I have enough vegan, meat and veg dishes? Is it a balanced dish and most importantly, does it retain its taste after its defrosted? I place my meals in a blast freezer which freezes food in twenty minutes, locking the texture in way more than a home freezer would do.

I want to help women. On average, females still tend to be the natural carers in the family. They work extremely hard to balance their busy lives. The vision of Ginger & Parsley is to relieve the burden of cooking, offering home-cooked recipes that are nutritious. I don’t have kids yet, but my wish is to employ mums to work flexi time, so that they can raise their kids, run the house and not have to give up their careers.

My food philosophy is… Everything should be in balance: don’t exclude any food groups in your diet. Listen to your body and eat what you crave, as long as it’s balanced. I am passionate about people eating and being healthier and applying this philosophy to my recipes: I cram up to seven vegetables into kids’ favourite recipes, for instance.

You can eat in London for £10 or £200 – and have a memorable experience. I’ve met many people who gave up jobs they didn’t enjoy and launched start-up pop up food stalls. This means that you can go out and enjoy a meal for £10, and you might enjoy it as much as a £200 meal, so that’s to be celebrated. London offers a lot of variety from around the world; some things, such as Bubble Tea have finally made its way from Taiwan, and Bubble Wrap which is a classic street food in Hong Kong is now very popular.

Brexit is upsetting. The cost of importing ingredients has already gone up. I hope that on a wider scale it won’t change the dynamics of London, delivered by so many nationalities, especially among the city’s restaurant scene.

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Premium frozen healthy meals cooked with organic vegetables and grass-fed, free-range meats are available to order from Ginger & Parsley here.

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