September 23, 2012

Meet Joe Gray

Age: 29

Let’s kick off with an important one. Cats or Dogs?: I prefer dogs; they’re loyal. Cats are either too needy or secretly hate you.

Most important tool in the kitchen: If you’re starting off, definitely a good quality knife. Sharp, well made, and look after it.

Proudest moment of entire career: This is a difficult one. It was amazing getting chosen to do the Zizzi Tomorrow campaign, which I’m doing now and finishing my Fifteen training with Jamie Oliver was pretty epic. But starting my own company and getting to the point where I was developing my brand and trading has to be it.  I’ve still got projects from Year 8 that I haven’t handed in so it was a great feeling.

When did you start working with the Prince’s Trust: I had been doing loads of weird jobs and spent a lot of time unemployed because I didn’t have any qualifications. That’s when I became involved with Jamie’s Fifteen training programme. I’d worked in loads of different restaurants and felt it wasn’t really the direction I wanted to go in; I wanted to do something for myself.

So I then worked in advertising, marketing, branding and just learned about business as a whole; how people sell things, why people buy things, how to make things look good and so on. It was at one of those office-y jobs that I was made redundant and I finally thought “No more working for others. I want to do something for me now”.

I had the ideas of what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it but there was a lot that I didn’t have. I had no idea about the day-to-day running of a business. Someone recommended speaking to the Prince’s Trust and get involved with their Enterprise Program.  It’s a 4 day crash course in how to run your own company – during that time I learned some amazing things that took me from a very raw idea to something that was a lot more realistic and achievable.

What’s it been like working with Gizzi? Really cool. I didn’t know much about Gizzi beforehand but I was aware of her. A lot of girls that I know were very jealous I was working for her. Once we got to know each other I really liked her style and how she cooks. We’ve both spent a lot of time in Thailand, so we found that we’ve got a lot in common. We have similar morals about ingredients and seasonality, how dishes should be constructed and so-on. She says she’s learned a lot from me, I’m not too sure about that one, but I’ve definitely learned loads from her.

And how is it working with Angelo (our executive chef)? Angelo’s really fun. Sometimes I have to ask him to repeat himself because the accent is quite thick and Italians, as we know, never lose that accent. He’s a really nice guy; always happy and always smiling and quite open to some of my ideas. It’s certainly been a learning experience making my dishes suitable for the Zizzi crowd, but it’s been great.

Where did the inspiration for the dishes come from?I wanted something that was very seasonal. Squashes, chillies, root veg, slow braises, and hearty puddings with thick sauces. Food is so much more than it used to be. We’ve evolved from eating purely for survival, into a society with people like sommelier’s and food critics whose whole lives revolve around food.

I want to take Zizzi’s customers on a journey through food and flavours. Smell and taste are two of the strongest senses tied to memory; I’m hoping people will taste the pig’s cheek dish and the warmth and heartiness of it will bring them back to a time or a place they remember fondly.

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