Between prepping for the release of her new book, Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes, and creating Culinary Travel videos for Saveur Magazine’s Video Festival, Diane’s chef extraordinaire, Jane Coxwell, has graciously offered to create a few recipes inspired by the destinations along this season’s jet set journey. We recently caught up with the travel savvy chef and—before we get to the main course—we wanted to introduce her and her delightful approach to food. Enjoy!
Where are you from? And tell us about a few of the places you have lived!
I’m a South African, born in Zimbabwe to Rhodesian/ English parents. I grew up in beautiful Cape Town, and left home at 18 to move to London with a few friends for about 3 years. After that, I based myself in a little town in the South of France for a couple of years and travelled around the Mediterranean and Adriatic, which was just so wonderful. I lived in San Francisco and Napa, California for about 2 years, and then for the rest of the time, I’ve been around the world on a boat!
Where does your gypsy spirit come from?
I’m not too sure, although my happiest memories as a child were traveling. My Dad was so eager to show the world to my mother, brother and I, so I started going to interesting places from a young age.
What is your favorite place you’ve ever been?
One of the best things about traveling for the past 11 or so years has been that I’ve had the opportunity to fall in love with so many different places, for so many different reasons: the people, the incomprehensible beauty, the distinct flavors— I’ve been so lucky, and I don’t actually think I could choose a favorite…
If you could travel anywhere?
You know, the world is so diverse and inspiring that each new destination provides incomparable experiences. I’ll go anywhere! I’m pretty much in love with the world.
When did you know you would become a chef?
My first day at culinary school. I’d never made much more than toast before that, but as soon as I started, it all fell into place.
How do your travels influence your approach to food?
I think it’s made me a bit more relaxed about food preparation— in that, I think a lot of the time, eating is more about the experience than about the actual food. And there are so many different ways to do things which has been interesting. I just like to cook what I like to eat, and try and make sure that people are happy. Sometimes, I’ve had to make do in some very small kitchens, with very limited ingredients and other times, I’ve been in the most beautiful kitchens with the best ingredients at my finger tips…and the funny thing is, the food still somehow feels the same.
I think the traveling has almost simplified my food in that I don’t feel the need to impress with anything over the top, because what I’ve seen from all different people from all over the world is that people just like to eat good food that tastes great and nourishes. It makes us happy. So my main objective with everything is: make it taste good and be good for the person I’m feeding. It’s become that simple. I make everyday food.
Do you have any mantras you live by or any words of wisdom when it comes to food?
Hmm…wisdom…maybe check in with me again in 40 years time…but what I would say is that I think that it’s important for people to feel relaxed and happy when it comes to making food. Sometimes we over think, and with food (like a lot of things), often times the most simple is the most satisfying. One thing I know for sure, is that when there’s love in food, it tastes 100% better. I say: be happy, love food.
We couldn’t agree more. Check here for a Rome-inspired recipe from Jane!
And here for a taste of the Mediterranean!