How We Met: Stevie Parle and Emma Grazette

'Both of us had been bitten to death. Then the monsoon started…'

Lena Corner
Friday 05 October 2012 22:33
Stevie Parle and Emma Grazette
Stevie Parle and Emma Grazette

Stevie Parle, 27

Parle has been cooking professionally since he was 16. He trained at The River Café, Moro and Petersham Nurseries and now runs his own restaurant, Dock Kitchen in west London. He lives in Hackney with his wife and son

I met Emma through a mutual friend, a regular at Dock Kitchen. We are both really interested in spices so we hit it off straight away. I went to visit Emma at The Spicery, the company she works for in Bath, and she made me a delicious beef curry. I always remember things through food – most of my memories are punctuated by stuff I've eaten.

We ended up going around the world together to make a TV programme about spices. We went to Turkey to look at cumin, Zanzibar for cloves, Mexico for chillies, Cambodia for black pepper and India for cinnamon.

It was an incredibly intense experience – very long hours and lots of travel; it was hardcore. Although we are quite different we worked really well together. I can be quite serious and a bit dreamy and she is really good fun and just sees pure joy in everything. When things went wrong – our bags got lost or we'd been booked into disgusting hotels – I'd plummet into despair but she'd always manage to see the positive side.

Her energy and passion are extraordinary. I'd be like, "Where's Emma, I haven't seen her for a while?" And she'd be up a tree picking a clove. She's really great with people, too; she had endless brilliant conversations with people she met along the way.

When we were in Mexico tasting chillies, she made up a spin-the-bottle game for me. Of course I ended up having to eat all the hottest ones. The best way to get rid of the heat of the chilli is drinking alcohol – water makes it worse – so I ended up having loads and loads of mescal and got completely drunk. The next day she made me a fantastic chilli hangover cure. It worked brilliantly.

I think it's entirely appropriate that we were making a programme about spices. She is a very intense person and that's exactly what spice is all about. She reacts to stuff emotionally and immediately. When she tastes or sees something amazing she becomes excited and passionate. She is so alive. And that makes her an amazing person to be with.

Emma Grazette, 30

Grazette spent nearly three years as head development chef at The Spicery in Bath, which supplies top restaurants including The Fat Duck and Moro. She now writes, blogs, runs pop-up restaurants and creates beauty products and therapeutic remedies using herbs and spices. She lives in Bath with her son

I first met Stevie round my friend Nicola's house and very quickly discovered that, when it comes to food, we had so much in common. Both of us are really anti fine dining and all those newfangled ways of cooking, and really into how your gran might cook: rustic and full of flavour.

We also discovered we share a very silly sense of humour, which turned out to be a saving grace when we were travelling. I love to travel and I love to meet new people, so it didn't really occur to me until we were halfway through the first country that if he'd been a little bit more uptight then it could have gone very wrong; it was our friendship that got us through the roller-coaster of the trip.

One particular low point came when we were in rural Kerala. We had just chopped down a cinnamon tree so our hands were covered in fresh blood blisters. Despite being smothered in repellent, both of us had been bitten to death. Then the monsoon started. We were crouched under the ridge of this hut and I was trying to make tea and burning myself on an oven that we were trying to keep stoked under an umbrella. Then Stevie started talking in his Brummie accent and suddenly everything was OK.

We had another memorable moment in Grenada. Kirani James had just won the island's first Olympic gold and the whole place ground to a standstill. They had this island-wide party and everybody got into it. We were filming in the street making oil down, which is Grenada's national dish; they were trying to film us but the music just kept going up and up and people started dancing all over the road and plenty of rum was being drunk and it was still only 10.30am. Eventually we just gave up filming and joined in; it felt like we were really embracing life.

Stevie can be very focused and pensive, especially when it comes to food and flavour. He really likes to get to the bottom of every ingredient – where does it come from? What does the tree look like that it grows on? He can go off into his own old world, quite whimsically. But he also quite likes to be a rebel; he enjoys that his food can be shocking because it is so rustic and deconstructed.

In many ways we are very different. He is organised and very on it; I am more fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants. But we have a similar ethos to food and eating. We both think it should be about sharing and putting love into the food.1

'Spice Trip' will air on More4 from mid-November

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