MADE BY MEMBERS • November 2020
With a passion for cooking that’s as infectious as her trademark laugh, Andi Oliver is about to emerge from the judging table of the Great British Menu to present its festive special. Ahead of this and a series of culinary adventures in her native Antigua, the Executive Club Member sits down with The Club to talk business, bucket lists and barbeques
What have you been up during lockdown?
So I’ve been quite hectic with my Caribbean kitchen project, Wadadli Kitchen, which has recently delivered two hugely successful pop-ups, a Caribbean barbecue at The Crooked Billet’s pub garden and ‘One Love’, our collaboration with the lovely Fred Sirieix at the Clapton Country Club. It’s the most wonderful space and more than big enough to facilitate social distancing. Now I’m looking ahead to starting our Caribbean Winter BBQ delivery box series.
Andi cooks up Caribbean cuisine on the barbecue at her Wadadli Kitchen. Photo: Tom Mattey
It’s a common belief that barbecues are only meant for the summertime, but really, it’s just another cooking method. You can have all of that smoky, meaty deliciousness all year around. I discovered recently that barbecue actually derives from the Caribbean word ‘barbacoa’ and – as my whole Wadadli Kitchen project is built around heritage cooking – this ended up really inspiring me to bring this concept into the spotlight.
Will you ever take Wadadli to the Caribbean?
Well my family’s from Antigua and I’m due to take the project there in spring 2021, and then back in November with a view to doing a longer project in 2022. This adventure is all about taking Black British Caribbean culture and giving it back to the island. To me, that’s when magic happens – when you connect two sides of a whole. The space we’re transforming will be a restaurant, bar, live music venue, art exhibition and so much more. We want to build something that is actually going to enrich the people of Antigua and uplift everyone involved. Essentially, we’re having one massive barbecue – great food, delicious cocktails and an exciting community all in one place!
If you could pen a love letter to one destination in the world, where would that be?
Cyprus. I lived in Limassol when I was a child and it was a place where my family were very happy. We’d eat out quite a lot and had plenty of picnics on the beach, so I think it was probably the place that most ignited my passion for food. From the meat sizzling away on the hot coals, to the fragrant herbs my parents cooked with – it instilled a desire in me to explore cooking and its simplicity. I thank Cyprus for that.
What’s the number one place on your bucket list?
For years I’ve been dying to go to Cuba! The main reason why I’m so desperate to go is to visit the paladars (restaurants hosted by families in their own homes) and try traditional Cuban tostones – green plantain that’s been fried, smashed and fried again until crisp. I first had them in Miami stuffed with garlic shrimp and they tasted incredible. I’d love to try more Cuban food. And, of course, you can’t visit Cuba without taking a drive in a top-down vintage car in the sunshine.
Where can we find your favourite restaurant?
Al Fassia in Marrakech, located on the edge of the city. I was lucky enough to visit last year when I was filming the BBC show Remarkable Places to Eat. Set up by two sisters, the whole kitchen is run by women who have this amazing energy about them. The menu is just so infused with love, it’s truly quite extraordinary. If you ever go, you must try their lamb shoulder poached in a delicious saffron broth – infused with spices and doused in butter and oil. It has to be one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I’d recommend booking ahead to make sure you get a table.
Which is your favourite borough in London?
I live in Clapton, so for me it has to be Hackney, East London. There are so many different cultures living here – on my street alone there’s at least 35 different languages spoken. I used to be a West London girl, but the east has got such heart. It’s also very green. I’m so lucky to have Hackney Marshes, Victoria Park (pictured below) and Clissold Park right on my doorstep. And our markets are just the best. Ridley Road Market in particular is very close to my heart – it’s just one of London’s markets that desperately needs protecting.
What are your three in-flight essentials?
First of all, I make sure I pack a little tub of Palmer’s Cocoa Butter. Keeping my skin feeling soft and moisturised is essential for me – especially on a long-haul flight. Secondly, I take a large water bottle to keep me hydrated throughout the journey. Lastly, I’m an avid reader so I’m never without my trusty bag of books. It drives my partner crazy, but I like to get to the airport a couple of hours early, so I have time to wander around and buy myself at least three new books. I love an airport Waterstones!
Why do you fly with British Airways?
British Airways is more like an institution than an airline to me; you just feel safe. I had to get a short-haul flight to Edinburgh for work recently and I was put on a cheaper airline that shall remain nameless, but it made me feel so anxious! On the way back, I was booked on British Airways and I gave the biggest sigh of relief.
Which is your favourite cabin?
I went to Asia to do a show with my daughter and they flew us in First. It was heaven. You don’t really want to get off at the other end. You’re thinking, can we not go around one more time? It really does ruin normal flying for you. I’m going to fly my mum (who’s 84) to Antigua with us in the spring and she’s really worried about the long flight. Mum, it’s British Airway’s Club World, this is not normal flying!
Andi Oliver is a chef, broadcaster, singer and restaurateur from London. To find out more about Andi’s Wadadli Kitchen BBQ series, click here