Meet four culinary talents conjuring up nutritious creations for Bristol communities via All About The Cooks this winter. Photography by Mireya Gonzalez
We’re not sure how well this reflects on us but if we were to find out that someone was cooking delicious Mauritian-inspired dishes or whipping up a batch of baklava a few minutes from our house, we’d be significantly more motivated to spark up a neighbourly connection. Start-up All About The Cooks – founded by Bristol Food Connections chair Claire Ladkin – hopes to inspire such community togetherness, enabling home cooks producing “real food, made in kitchens not factories” to sell their creations to Bristol folk.
Giuseppe Delfino, Southville “Naples is the capital of pizza and it is my hometown. We Neapolitans have pizza in our genes! During the 15 years I worked in Italian restaurant San Carlo, I made the whole range of Italian dishes, and above all, pastas. Last year I decided it was time to move out of my comfort zone and to experience cooking in other kitchens. I wanted to ensure I had varied experiences before starting on my long-term dream of setting up my own restaurant. I signed up with an agency and there was plenty of work. I loved the challenge of working in different environments with new people; then the pandemic hit and my phone stopped ringing. I’d taken what felt like only a small risk to work in other restaurants at a time when Bristol’s food scene was booming.
“I decided to turn the down time into productive time and make progress on setting up my own business. I perfected my homemade pizzas, Neapolitan style, and began sharing them with neighbours. Giving a pizza is like giving a smile, and people needed that during the lockdown. This is a crucial point to me because I think that cooking has a social role to play, bringing happiness and connecting people.
“Once I was happy with my pizzas – I’m a perfectionist – I asked my neighbours for feedback. I was overwhelmed with how much they loved them. I’m passionate about using the best organic ingredients and I had compliments on the tomato sauce, quality of the crusts and freshness of the toppings. A friend mentioned All About The Cooks and as I was enjoying cooking at home, it seemed the perfect way to continue doing what I loved while making some money from it. I am used to being in a kitchen and never seeing or hearing how much people are enjoying my dishes, so am looking forward to the direct communication with those who order my food. Beyond the pandemic, I have big ambitions. I want my pizzas, my pastas, my risottos to be like sunshine in people’s days and I hope that by building my reputation, I’ll be able to bring that sunshine to more and more people.”
Celebration dish: The meal I love to cook over the festive period is one for 31 December; a traditional plate of lentils with slices of cotechino (pork sausage), said to bring luck and prosperity for the year ahead.
Trung Trinh, Horfield “I was born after the Vietnamese war in a very small town by the sea in the north of Vietnam, called Bai Tu Long Bay. My roots in Vietnamese food run deep. Mealtimes were very important, and everything was cooked from fresh. My mother expected me to be involved with the cooking and taught me skills such as how to use a knife and work an open fire, along with ways to identify and pick out the best ingredients and how to combine them to make well-balanced dishes.
“Vietnamese food is all about balance. It’s simple but so fresh, as we use a lot of different varieties of fresh herbs. Being able to share my dishes, and a part of my heritage with food-lovers in Bristol via All About the Cooks is very rewarding.”
Celebration dish: In Vietnam, we don’t celebrate Christmas, but the holiday is similar to our celebrations of Vietnamese New Year, also called ‘Tết holiday’. This is a time for family to get together and food is a very important part of that. Often, we would cook for about 40 people at a time. As my family live by the sea in Vietnam we love to have fresh seafood during the Tết holiday, such as crab, king prawn, squid and oysters. We prepare dishes for ancestral worshipping: a whole steamed chicken in herbs, traditional Tết square cake, stir-fried beef with pineapple and spring rolls, fresh green papaya, mango and banana flower salads – all enjoyed once the ceremony is complete.
Duygu Karakus, Clifton “I am from Turkey, and my mum was a traditional Turkish housewife and is a great cook. I learned everything I know about cooking from her and my grandparents, who were from Crete but moved to Turkey in the 1920s. There are always vegetables and greens on the table and we like to use quality olive oil in our meals.
“Before my family and I moved to Bristol in 2018 for my husband to start a post-doctoral researcher position at University of Bristol, I was working as an administrative assistant in Turkey. I’ve always wanted to turn my passion of cooking into something more, but couldn’t because of my career back home. I found it difficult to find a job in Bristol, which means I’ve had more time to cook, bake and perfect recipes. I love cooking Mediterranean mezzes and Turkish desserts and will be taking a course in vegan or gluten-free breads, pastries and muffins.
“All About The Cooks is a great way to introduce myself and my culture to the city. It can be lonely being new but cooking for people in my neighbourhood has helped me make connections. I’m enjoying feeling part of a team, with the other cooks. I’m also a mum so working to my daily schedule and being my own boss is very helpful. It’s great that my daughter gets to see me doing something I’m passionate about and I hope in time she’ll start to pick up skills from me like I did from my mother. Earning my own money again for the first time in years has made me feel much more self-reliant and free.”
Celebration dish: We don’t celebrate Christmas, as it isn’t in our religion, but we do mark the time of year by engaging in cultural activities. We’ve always had a Christmas tree and my daughter loves to decorate it but the most important part of the holidays for us is New Year’s Eve. I cook a chicken stuffed with rice, blackcurrants, pine nuts and cinnamon. When the cooking is done, I spread a tomato paste/yoghurt mix around the chicken and bake until golden and crisp.
Karrie Mannan, Bedminster “I left school at 16 and worked in hospitality before going travelling and, on my return, falling into being an estate agent in London where my love of food really developed. There was so much to choose from and I finally had a stable income that meant I could enjoy eating out. This is when I discovered how delicious chicken wings, done right, could be. When I decided that being an estate agent was stifling my creativity, I applied for an illustration degree at UWE. My boyfriend and housemate encouraged me to take my cooking ‘public’ as being a student meant I didn’t have the money to eat out as much so I began cooking more at home and seemed to land on a chicken wing recipe that people loved. It grew from there and now I’m having to invest in another fryer just to satisfy the number of orders I’m getting. I purposefully have a small menu of items on the website, as I want to do a few things really well and be known for that.
“The goal is to work as a freelance illustrator or designer and run a street food business. All About The Cooks is helping me grow a base of foodie fans, enabling me to make money to support my studies and reinvest in my business idea – flexibly, on my terms. I choose a regular ‘cooking day’ and people can order ahead of that. Money isn’t my primary motivator in life – it’s nice to have at the end of the thing you love doing and that definitely applies when it comes to my cooking.”
Celebration dish: Christmas is a time that my nan and I spend together. She used to do the cooking, but now she’s passed the reigns over to me. I do a traditional roast, but make it extra special with a beef wellington, and crème brulee for dessert.