I’ve met a great deal of rich and famous people through my job. That’s more a statement of fact than an act of bragging. Whether I’m doing demonstrations for Aga in celebrity homes, or attending well to do (and occasionally very boring) cocktail parties, I’ve rubbed elbows with most of the folks whose perfect faces grace the cover of premium publications and gossip rags every week. If you had told me when I was an impressionable teenager that in years to come I would be hobnobbing with television presenters and pop stars, I would have laughed in your face. And then my mum would have scolded me for being rude.
I could namedrop here, but discretion prevents me from doing so. Ask me off the record, or at least sweeten the deal with a gin or two, and I’ll no doubt spill the beans, but what I will say is just how normal most celebrities are. Sure, some of those I’ve met in their luxury kitchens have been less than pleasant, but most of the big names I have met are welcoming, affable and, well, normal. You would think that encountering those a-listers usually seen peering out of a television screen or magazine pages would make one go wobbly of knee and frozen of tongue, but in my experience that’s not the case. They’re just regular people, after all – they just have a bigger bank balance.
But even I’m not impervious to the celebrity collywobbles. During one of my recent saunters about town, I encountered food royalty. You may never have heard of Chef Wan, but trust me when I tell you that he’s a pretty big deal within chef circles. He’s a Malaysian ambassador and a food critic; he has cooked for kings and queens and has written multiple cookbooks – they’ve garnered him a hat trick of Gourmand awards in the past, so we have more than one thing in common.
I met Chef Wan at a friend’s party in London. I recognised him immediately but didn’t want to embarrass myself by asking for an autograph. A golden rule in my job is that you treat your clients as if they are special without fauning all over them. After getting those initial mouth-drying, palm-dampening nerves, something immediately struck me about this chap who is heralded as a food icon across Asia – he is very kind, very warm and very helpful. More than that, he will take the time to speak to you, empathise with you, no matter who you are. Rather than waiting impatiently for someone more interesting to come along, he talks and listens as if you are the only person in the room.
It was great to spend time chewing the fat (as both an enjoyer and purveyor of good food, I’ve always thought that was an odd phrase – why exactly would you want to chew fat?) with him, small talking about our lives and our careers and everything in-between. Good food, good company and, to use the Northern Irish term, good craic. It was a wonderful way to spend an evening.