Award-winning chef and Celebrity MasterChef regular Jesse Dunford Wood is considered an expert in modern British food. However, having trained and worked in kitchens all around the globe, he also has a great knowledge of cuisines the world over and more importantly for us, experience of Christmas food in other countries.
Born in Brazil, Jesse moved to England at an early age and trained at restaurants in Scotland before moving to the South West of England. There, he studied French cuisine at Gidleigh Park Hotel in Devon under Chef Michael Caines, who holds two Michelin stars.
His career then went global, as he worked in Sydney, London, Chicago and New York at some of the most notable – and in some cases ground-breaking – restaurants.
So before we move on to Christmas this year, what about Christmas in all these different parts of the world?
Jesse tells us: “America has all the Hollywood glitz, and where I was located was snowy and quite fairlytale-esque. I spent two Christmasses in the US. Marshmallows were a new addition to the Christmas menu to me with the sweet potatoes, I loved it!
“Australia was a different take on it all – with a BBQ on the beach, fish and cold beer and not a turkey in sight!
“I even spent one Christmas on a mountain in New Zealand. We went up there in glorious sunshine on Christmas eve, stayed the night and it was all covered in snow in the morning. Risotto with local shellfish was amazing.”
We love the idea of the sweet potatoes and marshmallows so much, we searched around the internet to see some for ourselves. Everything from sweet potato with a marshmallow topping to an all-out sweet potato and marshmallow gratin can be found. Have a search for yourselves.
Back on topic then, Jesse is now Owner and Head Chef at Parlour in London and is famed for his creativity. When it comes to Christmas, that creative flair continues, with Parlour offering some quite brilliant-sounding festive food, including Father Christmas Salad, The Chrimbo Turkey Kyiv and Reindeer Pie. Yes, you read that right. Reindeer pie.
Is it really reindeer in those pies, Jesse?
“Yes Chef! Reindeer, sourced from the Scottish Highlands! But think not about Rudolph, more about it similarity to venison.” Jesse says.
Something else that jumps off the menu is the Scrumpy Glazed Pulled Park with Apple Crumble, mainly because it sounds incredible!
“Pulled pork with a scrumpy sauce is a very trendy dish! And combined with an apple compote, and crunchy savoury crumble, what is not to like. And so fun too!”
As you have probably now gathered, Jesse’s character really shines through in his menus and his cooking. A diverse range of tastes and textures greet you every step of the way at Parlour, and so just what is the inspiration behind some of these off-the-wall dishes?
“Fun! Familiarity! Unexpected delights!” Jesse explains.
“Lots of restaurant’s Christmas menus have Turkey. I am not a fan of eating badly loved and badly prepared turkey in ‘Budget or ‘deal’ restaurants.
“Give them something fun, and something that the Restaurant is famous for, hence the change of Cow Pie to Reindeer Pie and the Chicken Kyiv to Turkey Kyiv! Seasonal innit!”
As with all of the chefs we have been lucky enough to speak to so far this year, Jesse is a big fan of using seasonal ingredients. His ability to take an ingredient that many would think of as quite normal and turn it into something fun and tasty is unquestioned.
He said: “Chestnuts are my favourite, we do a brilliant Chestnut Hummus dish. I also love swede, and use that seasonally in our Raw Vegetable Ravioli. Also brilliant smashed, pureed, roasted or grilled. Swede is highly under-rated in my opinion.”
Finally then, on to the subject of Christmas at home. We asked Jesse what his earliest memories are of food at Christmas, and what will Christmas Dinner look like at his own house this year?
“Earliest Christmas food memory is chipping a tooth on the money in a Christmas Pudding! I’ve never liked it so much since then.” Jesse jokes.
“Sausages or dates wrapped in bacon are a must for the Christmas table. I still love home too. So a beautiful and traditional roast Turkey, or goose, and last year I did suckling Pig.
“I am also a fan of Christmas Pudding Ice Cream and Vodka-infused Ice Cream with chopped up Christmas Pudding too.”
We’ve had some great suggestions from chefs so far on what to do with those Christmas leftovers on Boxing Day.
Jesse suggests: “Turkey Bubble and Squeak with Fried Duck eggs, and my now legendary Cream of Turkey Soup with Cranberry sauce, is sensational.”
Jesse Dunford Wood’s favourite Christmas recipe
“Try our Chestnut Hummus. Not quite hummus, but could change your life…”
You can find Jesse’s Chestnut Hummus recipe by clicking here
Visit Jesse’s Parlour restaurant for an amazing meal deal!
Details of the Christmas menus at Parlour, and the opportunity to book a table, can be found on the Parlour website (click here)