Pastry Chef and Food Writer, Ravneet Gill joins us for the latest instalment of The Chef’s Table.
After completing a psychology degree, Gill made the decision to study at Le Cordon Bleu and worked her way up the ranks in London’s pastry kitchens. Adding another string to her bow, in 2018 Gill founded Countertalk, ‘a platform designed to help connect chefs, provide education, and promote healthy work environments in the hospitality industry’.
Here, the author of Pastry Chef’s Guide and Sugar, I Love You, shows us around her kitchen.
How did you first get into baking?
I used to bake when I was a teenager because I loved thinking I could make delicious things. My mum is an excellent cook, but not a baker or dessert maker in any way, so I took it upon myself to learn. I started small, with biscuits and little cakes before attempting more challenging things like croissants, custards, and elaborate, unnecessary cake decorating.
What are some of your childhood food memories?
My mum is an excellent cook, honestly fantastic. I always think she has the hands for cooking, you know, the right touch and feel to understand what she’s making. It always turns out good without much effort. We ate really nice food at home from aloo parathas, dhaals, pakoras, samosas, and more. As a kid I’d look forward to the days where we would drive to Romford Road for Dokhla, Chilli Mogo, and Jalebi’s to finish – always with a rubicon.
I’d go to the Gurdawara on the basis that i’d get prasad (blessed food) for sitting patiently whilst listening to prayers or langar (which is the community kitchen in a Gurdwara designed for anyone who wants a meal) which would include samosas and kheer on special days.
Who most influenced your baking/cooking?
When I was growing up, a lot of my food education outside of knowing about the Indian food my mum cooked came from TV. I remember loving classic French chefs like Raymond Blanc and Michel Roux and loving Madhur Jaffrey and Rick Stein.
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The food that makes you happiest and why?
An excessive amount of carbs always makes me really happy. Like a massive bowl of chips, potatoes in any form, bread in any form, pasta, and fried things. Sugar, oh I love sugar. Food made with love, I could go on…
Favourite cooking gadget?
Stick blender; stand mixer; deep fat fryer.
What’s the one ingredient you can’t live without?
Where are the best places to shop for produce in London?
All of the pockets of local supermarkets in different areas. I love exploring those, I love Green street, Ilford lane, Southall for spices, mangoes when in season, snacks, and more. JB Sweets on Romford Road for excellent snacks, chutneys, and chilli mogo. Green Lanes for fantastic Turkish, Kurdish, Greek Cypriot finds like breads, nuts, fresh fruit and veg, herbs, filo pastry, cheese… Platters in Golders Green for bagels, smoked salmon, and cream cheese. Borough Market for nuts, cheese, and lovely fruit and veg. Neals Yard for dairy and cheese. I also love ordering from Belazu, Estate Dairy, HG Walter, and Natoora when i’m catering.
How does travel influence your baking/cooking?
It’s always nice to open your eyes to other ways of life, isn’t it? To taste new ingredients and see what the locals eat. All of those things help me to get creative.
Must-visit food cities include…
Oaxaca; Paris; Mumbai; Rome; Naples; and Copenhagen.
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Where are your favourite places to dine in London?
Brawn, Noble Rot, Sabor, Hoppers, Quo Vadis, Maison Francois, Joy king Lau (for lunchtime dumplings), Paradise, Green Lanes (for Friday night lahmacun),Edgware Road for late night falafel wraps from Ranoush Juice, Legare, Sonora, Pockets…I could go on..
What do you always avoid ordering on a menu?
Anything deconstructed. Desserts that sound like starters.
By contrast, must-order items on a menu include…
Chips; any type of potato; any type of bread; any type of something spicy.
Why do you think it’s important to gather round the table to eat?
To stop, enjoy the process of eating and catching up, to make meaningful connections over food.
What is your go-to meal at home when you’re low on time?
Do you find baking/cooking therapeutic?
Helllllll yes. Specifically when it’s not for any reason apart from having the time to enjoy using nice ingredients.
Advice for women thinking about starting up a business in the food or restaurant industry?
Do your research! Go and find people and businesses you are inspired by and ask questions or get some experience if you can in certain areas. You’ll be surprised how much people are willing to help along the way. Be kind and treat people properly.
Ravneet Gill participated in a recent Cafe Murano Book Club event. For future events please see here. Tickets are £85 each and include a welcome cocktail, signature Cafe Murano nibbles and a two-course menu inspired by the guests’ latest books.