Anglo-Italian chef Joe Hurd (From BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, ITV’s Munchbox and Travel Channel) knows the power of great cooking for all round health. And for Joe, the benefits go far beyond getting healthy food in the belly – it’s also about socialising, relaxing, sharing the load and learning new skills. That’s why he aims to combine the conviviality of a supper club, with the hands-on approach of a cooking class with He Man’s Hob.
We sat down with Joe to find out more about the new project…
Hi Joe! So wtf is He Man’s Hobb?
He Man’s Hob is a cooking club for men. Its not like a supperclub where you pay me, I cook and you eat, its more like we all chip in a bit for the food, cook together, eat together, talk, have a few drinks and generally chill out. Theres no competitive element, its not bake off or any of that type of nonsense. Just a load of fellas in a kitchen, cooking, learning, eating, and talking. Its really that simple.
I’ve lost a few friends and acquaintances to depression and anxiety and decided I wanted to try and help others in whatever way I could, for me this was cooking.
What inspired the idea?
One of my biggest inspirations was Antonio Carluccio, an amazing chef, writer and broadcaster. Throughout his life he was sadly dogged by depression but found a lot of comfort in the simple act of preparing and eating a meal, this is something I totally get. I’ve lost a few friends and acquaintances to depression and anxiety and decided I wanted to try and help others in whatever way I could, for me this was cooking. I think when you cook you kind of meditate a little. I’m not a hippy or a buddhist monk, but there is something about zoning out for a few hours that I totally get – and you can do that with a rolling pin in one hand and a kilo of pasta that needs to be millimeter thick perfect in the other.
Why just men?
Great question. This concept was inspired by the Txokos of the Basque region. Nowadays there are very few positive places men can just socialise together sadly. Increasingly its becoming more difficult. In the past it was the pub, an allotment, social club or the football, I have always valued just having a few moments where its all lads together. Its in this kind of environment you can talk, get things off your chest, open up.
At the heart of this is the simple act of sharing a meal and taking a break from the pressures of the modern world. This group is about encouraging men from all backgrounds to sit down and eat, engage in conversations with each other, listen and support fellow members.
Aren’t chef’s kitchens the most stressful place in the world?
Yes in some cases they are more tense than a battlefield and thats because 4-5 worn out poor souls earning peanuts are slaving away to the sound of a ticket machine thats printing off hundreds of orders a minute. In this kitchen we’re going to take our time, I am openly encouraging dawdling, shirking and loafing. Do what you please is the order of the day, there isn’t really any rush, and thats the element that makes a kitchen hell.
In this kitchen we’re going to take our time, I am openly encouraging dawdling, shirking and loafing. Do what you please is the order of the day, there isn’t really any rush, and thats the element that makes a kitchen hell.
I can’t boil an egg. Can I go?
Anyone can go, even those that can’t boil an egg. Its not about skill or ability. I am hoping that whoever comes will pick up a few extra skills, because frankly cooking is very, very simple.
Are you saying that eating a solo ready meal in front of the TV every night might not be the best thing for my health?
There is so much wrong with that example, its Orwellian in its bleakness. Yes its really fucking unhealthy for a number of reasons. Ready meals are crammed full of everything that will one day contribute to an early death (preservatives, e numbers, sugars, saturated fats, etc etc) But more importantly they, and the situation of you sat eating one on your own, is bad for morale. For years I used to live in the grimiest little East London bedsit living off a very low wage , but I made sure I always finished the day with a proper meal. Id go shopping and spend time thinking and choosing what I’d eat (I think anticipation is the best part about food) then i’d just take time cooking, savouring the smells and the motions of it all, then sit down and eat. It was satisfying. But also, try and make the time to interact with others when you eat, food is great at sparking a bit of conviviality and generating company which is one of the most important things we need as humans. So no more Birdseye meals for one in front of Game of Thrones except for a treat.
What do you hope people get out of it?
Honestly, it sounds corny but just to get a few hours of happiness out of the evening. Whether its preparing food, meeting someone new and having a chat, sitting quietly in the presence of others and not feeling lonely, learning new skills, whatever. Just as long as people go away smiling and looking forward to the next meeting, thats all gravy for me.
Join Joe! The second He Man’s Hob takes place in Mimo London 6.30pm on Monday 8 July, grab your ticket.
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