Gizzi Erskine will be appearing at this year's Taste of Dubai festival for the first time, bringing her own style of cooking to a show that has traditionally been dominated by restaurant chefs. Not that Erskine hasn't worked in her fair share of restaurants; having cooked and been interested in food all her life, at age 23 she decided to give up her career as a body piercer and enrolled at Leiths School of Food and Wine, completing a diploma course there in 2003. After that, she moved on to work in a number of restaurants.
After spending time as a food stylist, Erskine came to prominence in the UK with Channel 4's Cook Yourself Thin. This television programme (which later inspired a cookbook) took traditionally indulgent dishes - fish and chips, chicken tikka masala, pizza - and provided ways of preparing them in a healthier fashion, the premise being that people could lose weight without denying themselves their favourite food.
Erskine's affable personality and fresh, modern style shone through and she has since gone on to appear on a number of TV shows, including Cookery School with Richard Corrigan and Iron Chef.
In a world where shows featuring celebrity chefs can feel quite far removed from the life of a home cook in charge of preparing dinner every evening, Erskine adds a healthy dose of reality. In fact, her latest book, which is due to be published at the end of the month, was inspired by her own experiences. While working flat-out last year, she ended up putting on weight without realising; as someone who loves to cook and eat, she says that she didn't want to go on a restrictive diet and set about devising her own eating plan; as a result, the idea for Skinny WeeksandWeekend Feasts was born.
"I love food and I don't want to deprive myself, but I knew that I wanted to lose weight," she explains. "This book is my recipes and my way of cooking - a sort of diet through the eyes of a chef. It's based on the idea that if you eat healthily for the majority of the time, you can afford to indulge and treat yourself every so often."
Erskine describes her style of cooking as "new fusion" and says she is inspired by pop culture, world events and her travels. Intriguing sounding dishes from Skinny WeeksandWeekend Feasts include blackened mackerel with roast tomatoes and Kaffir lime leaves, Korean beef and glass noodles, and yogurt curry chicken, all of which feature in the skinny section, suggesting that people won't be deprived of bold flavours and interesting combinations.
When it comes to eating healthily in the week, Erskine says her secret weapon for pepping up ingredients and adding interest to dishes is Sriracha hot sauce and that, providing she has oyster sauce, spring onions, broccoli, chillies, eggs and noodles in the house, she's confident she'll be able to whip up a healthy, tasty meal.
Gizzi Erskine will be cooking at the Philips Chef's Theatre tomorrow at 6pm, on Friday at 3.50pm and on Saturday at 5.30pm
For more on food, restaurants and recipes read the The National blog Bites here.
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