So says Csaba Kanczler, one of the first chefs to sign up on eho chef. "You don't have go to chef school. One of the best cooks I ever worked with was a self-taught grandmother."
Csaba - it's pronounced "Shabba" - is "passionate about food". After finishing school in his native Hungary, he remained in the country where he spent his first two years of training to become a chef and completed his third year in France. A self-confessed perfectionist, Csaba admits he was an A-student. "Nothing was ever good enough for me. While my fellow students were out socialising, I was always in the kitchen - trying out new dishes and practising them obsessively."
After qualifying, he moved to London where his hard work and perfectionism certainly paid off. He has worked with Anton Edelmann the chef, writer and television cook who was maître chef des cuisines at the Savoy Hotel from 1982 to 2003; and Anna Hansen, the New Zealand author and chef who opened The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell and who was awarded an MBE in 2012 for services to the restaurant industry. "I loved working with Anna but I am a big guy and I was too big to fit into her kitchen!" he chuckles. "I certainly learned a lot there though."
Csaba, a former rugby player, is indeed a "big guy", and has a personality to match. He says he loves travelling because he enjoys tasting new food. "When I travel and discover food I have never heard of, I have to try it. What's the point of having the same as you always have at home? Life should be all about adventure and trying new things." He admits though, that the life of a chef is a tough one. "We work long hours and you're always working when everyone else is off on weekends, at night and over bank holidays. I love what I do, but when I do manage to get away on holiday, I like to rest - and to taste new foods of course!"
Csaba, who is "currently single", says potential girlfriends have sometimes believed that dating a chef means they will be cooked elaborate meals all the time. "But at home in my kitchen, it's all about simplicity. At the end of a long day cooking for others, I am tired and hungry but I also want something delicious," he says. "The secret is fresh, simple ingredients. Then I turn to pasta with fresh chili, tomato, garlic and basil."
Csaba is head chef at The Jolly Gardeners in Earlsfield. At the moment he is particularly excited about his latest project - knocking through a wall at The Jolly Gardeners to create the terrace grill. "Our customers have enjoyed my special barbecues this summer, but what they don't realise is that you can barbecue in the winter too! Barbecued turkey is delicious."
Whatever the season however, expanding the culinary experiences of his customers and making sure they are satisfied, is always at the forefront of Csaba's mind. "When I put on my chef's uniform, I become a different person. Then I care only about the customer. Our managers are not our bosses. It is customers who run the business because they pay our managers, who pay our salaries, so it is my job to make sure they are happy."
Csaba is enthusiastic about becoming part of the eho chef community. "I have sometimes worked in restaurants where you never see who you're cooking for. However with eho chef, you get to meet your clients and have the chance of getting to know them. I like people and I love being able to cook for them and to see them savouring my food. It's the main reason I do this job." So far, Csaba has cooked for eho chef customers twice - the first time was for a party of six and the second was a more intimate evening for two. "I thoroughly enjoyed the experience," he says. "I spent a couple of hours preparing the day before each event - there are some things you quite simply cannot prepare on the day. Panna cotta for example, needs time to set.
"I took an assistant with me so that while I was cooking and plating the food, there would be someone to pour drinks and to help with the washing up. I also took a set of cutlery and crockery just to be safe. I allowed myself two hours at the client's home to prepare before the guests arrived. As it was my first time, I needed to invest in the right kind of cooler box so that I could transport the food safely from my kitchen to the client's home. But the money I earned was definitely worth it and more importantly, it was satisfying work and fun!
"If I had more time away from my full-time job, I'd be happy to use eho chef four or five times a week, it's a good way to make extra money. My message to other professional chefs and amateur cooks is to try it out, you really cannot lose."