If you haven’t heard of her before, then let me tell you that Tess Ward is a bit of a culinary powerhouse. Not only is she incredibly hardworking, well trained and uber cool (even catching her on one of her rare ‘quieter’ days, she oozed a stunning off duty cool), but she brings a refreshing and un-intimidating approach to food- which is pretty bloody wonderful. She’s passionate, creative and very much in belief of having a well rounded balance, as well as nutrition and good quality ingredients- and makes things achievable for everyone. Not only that, but Tess is a real girls girl- and is all for supporting other women. Could she be any more awesome? Well…
Tess! For those that haven’t heard of your work, tell us a little about yourself…
Hello, thanks for having me over on your lovely blog. I’ve long been a fan! I am a chef, foodie, writer, keen photographer and a lover of all breakfast food.
You trained at Le Cordon Bleu and have worked in some incredible places (as well as writing an amazing column or two)- has food always been an interest? What inspired your healthy eating?
For me cooking began as a sort of escapism. When I was at university I had a lot of free time and sort of fell into it. Potting, mixing, baking and pickling to my hearts content, I gave my hangover days purpose. It was from there the love developed. Once I mastered the basics of eggs poaching, pasta, curries and other uni staple dishes I started to migrate towards healthier food in an attempt to fix my sensitive digestion. It wasn’t a massive turnaround. I have always eaten well and was lucky enough to have had a mum who cooked, but the amazing vitality and energy I felt from upping the amount of veggies and lowering the amount of refined grains and sugar I ate was massive. At the time there were no books that really showed that healthful food could be delicious. I really wanted to change that and help others uncover the delights of simple, yet tasty food and the benefit of good health as I had, so I persevered. It’s amazing how much momentum the food movement now has. I feel blessed to be involved.
Are there any memorable meals or ‘foodie’ moments you had growing up- were you always interested in cooking and creating new dishes and combinations?
I was far more interested in eating than cooking until I was in my teens. My chosen treat after school was lazy gal flapjack oats. Basically I used to melt oats with butter and maple syrup in a frying pan and eat it hot with a wooden spoon. It never made it to the baking tray. To this day flapjacks are still once of my favourite treats. I put my almond and pine nut butter bars in my cookbook as an ode to these afternoons of mine and that wooden spoon.
You write and cook full time- what does an average day look like for you?
No two days are the same- but you can count on a lot of cooking, writing, emails and maybe if I’m lucky a lovely meal out at the end of the day with a friend or at an event. Tomorrow I am up at 7am to shoot for a Le Cordon Bleu alumni video, then a meeting in Soho, then I hope to squeeze in a lunchtime yoga class. In the afternoon I have some new recipes to develop for Fabulous Magazine and then dinner with some friends at Pachamama in Marylebone.
Your first book, The Naked Diet came out this year (you go girl)- how did the whole process come around? How long did it take to come up with the recipes? Were they ones you’d already been turning to?
Aw thanks. It was an amazing honour when that came around. At the time I was about to begin ghost writing a book for Dorling Kindersley. But working on my own book with Quadrille, who really got my idea for design and were happy to run with my idea for the photography was a dream- so after that came through it all moved quite fast.
Which is your favourite recipe you’ve created- what ingredients do you love using?
My spiced lamb meatballs from the book is definitely one of my favourites to eat. I like to cook seasonally so the ingredients I use tend to reflect that. At the moment it’s sweetcorn.
With the rise of Instagram and Twitter, and ultimately social sharing- do you think it’s changed the way we approach food?
For sure it is changing. I think the way that food is so much more accessible through the internet is great. I often use websites as inspiration when I wonder the aisles of the supermarket. As with anything there are negatives too. There are a lot of voices now that marginalise certain food groups, which I don’t agree with. Gluten and sugar are to the present what fat was to the ’90s, and people are now shunning them in favour of often poorer quality products that contain more chemicals and preservatives. One thing is for sure, social media has made food fashionable. It’s just a shame that so many people value popularity over credibility.
There’s been a wave of green and ‘raw’ eating this year, as well as a lot of media surrounding it being a ‘fad’ and ultimately, trendy- where do you stand on the whole shebang?
I try not to get involved. I do get dragged into a press articles about healthy eating from time to time, but for the most part I just focus on how I can continue making delicious, everyday food accessible. I think it’s important to strike a balance, my only rule is not eating raw food for dinner. It’s hard to digest.
If you had to cook dinner for anyone- who would you cook for, and what would you cook?
Stephen Fry. It would certainly be something classic, probably a roast chicken with tarragon sauce and all the trimmings!
If you could only cook one meal for the rest of your life what would it be? What’s your biggest comfort food?
I would choose my mum’s chicken fajitas with peppers, guacamole, salsa and sour cream. We are big on sharing food in my family; plonking a selection of things in the centre of the table for people to serve, roll and wrap their own. It’s interactive and fun.
Being a ‘girl crush’ feature- which women in food do you look up to and admire? Is there anyone that inspired you to get in the kitchen?
I really look upto women in business. For the first time in the food industry the women seem to be dominating more headlines then men, which is empowering. Julia Child and Lorraine Pascale are the two female cooks who I find informative and very likeable.
Do you have any favourite London foodie hideaways we should know about, and definitely visit?
Ooooh how could I share… Probably my local coffee shop Fields. It’s Clapham’s worst kept secret. An adorable little cafe in the middle of the park. I always order poached eggs and bacon on fried cornbread. It’s superb!
Finally- what’s next for Tess?
There are a few things I am currently working on- I have just finished filming a series of videos for GQ, which will be available soon. I have also been working with Grey Goose on a selection of Christmas cocktails and canapés. Otherwise my website is just about to be relaunched and I am working towards a few secret projects that will be revealed in the new year!