An East London native, chef Joseph Denison Carey is known for throwing himself out of the frying pan and into the fire – at 16, it was cooking ‘camp’, then moving to Italy to work under Michelin starred chefs. So, what lessons have these creative challenges taught him – and more importantly, what does he consider the best meal ever? We find out.
Missoma: When did you first know you wanted to become a chef?
Joseph Denison Carey: I went to a cooking camp when I was about sixteen – I was the youngest person there. It was a mix between foraging and cooking, and I met some incredible chefs.
Making an arrabbiata for one of the chefs there was the first time I realised I was good at something that I liked doing. I came back from the cooking camp and I was like, right, I want to be a chef.
M: Your career soon took you to Italy…
J: Cooking school in Italy was tough. Not just because of the work – the nature of the work is difficult – but working 66 hours a week in a country where you don’t have any friends and can’t speak the language, I think the social side of it was the hardest thing. But it’s also set me up with all of the skills that I have today, so it was totally worth it.
M: What was it like working with Michelin starred chefs starting out?
J: It was amazing to work with amazing chefs. You can get people that are really good at their job but aren’t very good at teaching, but the chefs that I’ve worked with have taught me so much. It was hard at times but such an incredible experience.
M: You started the Bread & Butter Supper Club in London – how did it start?
J: The Bread & Butter Supper Club came about because I’d been hosting a few dinner parties for friends and family, and I’d seen the format done in a commercial way before. I wanted to try my hand at branching out to any strangers who might want to come and eat my food.
I’ve got some great friends who work in hospitality, so we got together and I told them about my idea, and we made it happen.
M: What lessons did it teach you?
J: I’ve definitely learnt how to lead in the kitchen – in any environment – and how to control my own emotions. I’ve learnt how much that affects the people that you’re working with.
M: Cooking is often a form of connection – which chefs inspire you?
J: Learning how to cook in Italy, there’s a real sense of community and bringing people together when we eat. That philosophy is instilled in a lot of Italian chefs, like say Massimo Bottura – the food culture of sitting down, taking time to eat, and taking time when you cook. Any chef that embodies that philosophy is a chef that I admire.
M: Do you have any meals that hold strong memories for you?
J: The meal that holds the strongest memory for me is from my Nanny, my Dad’s Mum, who’s from St. Kitts in the Caribbean. She makes this salt fish stew with tomatoes, red peppers, yams, rice and beans – it’s an instant blast from the past.
M: You’re on This Morning – what’s it like cooking live on TV?
J: It’s funny because I’ll get on and I’ll be totally relaxed for the entire morning leading up to it and then the second the cameras turn on my heart will start pumping in my chest. But it’s so much fun.
M: What’s a dish that transports you?
J: Spaghetti bolognese is a classic – it was the first thing that I learnt how to make. My Mum taught me how. Whenever I cook it, it takes me back to the beginning and I always try to make it better than the last time.
M: What other ways do you express your creativity?
J: In what I wear. Like my cooking style, I try to keep it fairly simple but really good quality.
M: Do you normally wear jewellery?
J: I do normally wear jewellery, every day. Not a lot, but just one or two pieces.
M: Have a favourite piece from the Men's Edit?
J: I really love the Chunky Curb Chain Bracelet, I think it’s really cool.
M: What’s next for you?
J: I try not to think too much about what’s next. I set myself long-term goals and aim for them, and then however I get there will be how I get there.