Learning from The Naked Chef
by Nicola Warwick

Jamie Oliver is my favourite TV chef here in the UK. He's a typical Essex boy who was discovered one day when a film crew were making a programme at the London restaurant where Jamie was working. They were so taken with his screen presence and his personality that they later approached him to host his own TV programme. Jamie put together a proposal. He says it was a scruffy A4 sheet of paper with his ideas for the series. He wanted to "strip cooking down to its bare essentials".

You can see where the Naked Chef title came from. Jamie works with basic ingredients and a "just do it" attitude. It's very much a case of working with what you've got, making the most of the contents of your kitchen cupboards and throwing everything together in something approaching gay abandon. And it works. He produces delicious food that looks incredibly appetising and frequently flamboyant. And it's a style that's easy to emulate but allows you to put your own personal stamp on the menus you create.

Writing isn't so different. You don't need anything special to be able to write. Just a pad and pen. You don't need fancy ingredients either. What you need you will find literally in your cupboards at home. Your life is in those cupboards. Hidden away in old letters, Christmas cards, postcards from abroad. Magazines you've stashed away to read later. Your personality is laced throughout your home and your life. That's the material you need to use to write. It's all there waiting for you.

Nor do you need any special time to write. Snatch 20 minutes here and there and put together your own recipes. Write about your life and what you know. You've got the ingredients. You don't need anything elaborate to put it all together. You don't need a perfect writing desk. You can write anywhere there's a flat surface. So, you can "cook up" your stories or articles in someone else's kitchen equally as well as in your own.

And the finished article doesn't have to be perfection. Often those rustic offerings are more tasty than the cuisine found in the so called best restaurants. It's all about being true to your own personal style and working from what you know. When Jamie put together his proposal for his Naked Chef series he had a few criteria. He wanted to cook in his own kitchen. He wanted to chose the music that accompanied the series. He wanted to buy food from his favourite local places and he wanted to adopt a friendly, casual feel. You can dictate your own terms. It's all a personal choice. You can even write in the buff if you want!!! That really would be writing naked.


Nicola Warwick is the webmaster of Cloudshill and a fellow columnist at One Woman's Writing Retreat. You can also learn about her relationship with the Muse here at the Soul Food Cafe.