Rachel Khoo, the british Amélie

Paula Móvil

Being a chef and becoming a huge TV star is easy if you know how to follow some basic rules. If you’re like Spanish chef Arguiñano, you just have to trust your humorous instinct and your Basque cookbook. On the other hand, if you’re more like Jamie Oliver, you’d better make the most out of that sexy lisp of yours, back it up with your knife-handling skills and some difficult recipes that turn into beautiful dishes in under 30 minutes.

If we take the case of Rachel Khoo (London, 1980) for example, we will see her secret lies in the charm of her gorgeous and tiny Parisian kitchen in Belleville. It is one of those kitchens that is so small that you wouldn’t dare to cook for anyone but yourself… and maybe your cat. But Khoo was bold enough, and even managed to let in an entire TV crew to witness what was going on inside it. We bet that trying to film her tiny oven—squeezed under the counter where she could have been cooking a quiche lorraine and a sponge cake at the same time—gave her camera man more than one muscle cramp. In no time, Rachel turned into the living image of the European dream, or the British version of An American in Paris.

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It only took six episodes, some croque madame muffins and Khoo’s version of boeuf bourguignon with baguette dumplings for BBC2’s The Little Paris Kitchen (2012) to turn into a television hit, watched by 1.5 million people. Rachel also published a book that sold 120,000 copies. In fact, it was this very book, flooded with recipes disregarding everything related to calories—she prefers to ignore them and avoid surprises—that turned Rachel’s home into a ‘cozy’ restaurant where she could try out all the recipes she had jotted down. Her loyal audience was captivated when witnessing how Rachel took French recipes that nobody dared to tamper with, and made them something of her own. While her confidence didn’t please celebrity and Michelin-starred chefs, it did help that people started comparing her with British TV’s culinary queen, Nigella Lawson.

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After saying au revoir to Paris, with five books under her sleeve, she decided to go back to London and start filming Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook: London. One can blame her restlessness on the nomad spirit she got when she moved to Bavaria at age 12, or perhaps on her need to face new culinary challenges. In either case, she cannot help being the traveler that she is. TV has taken her to Istanbul, Nice, Stockholm and Barcelona, among other cities. She also made a brief stop in Malaysia to revisit her roots. Last year she landed in what seems to be her final stop (for now): Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook Melbourne. 

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Sometimes there is no better way to get to know a city than through the eyes of a foreigner, in order to make everything new and exciting again. As an outsider, you take new roads and discover the charm of what has always been right there in front you. Which is exactly what Khoo does: Jump from one place to another to retrieve the flavors that make up each culture and give them her own personal touch by taking them to her delicious and cozy kitchen (rachelkhoo.com).

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