Rachel Khoo is Khoo as a cucumber

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Vineeta Maruti speaks to celebrity chef Rachel Khoo about London, dim sum and her new cute cookery show 

It’s all sugar and spice with cookbook author and television chef Rachel Khoo. Good things come in threes – and the pretty English lady charmed audiences worldwide with her sublimely feminine trinity of pastry, polka dot dresses and Paris in her hit 2012 BBC show The Little Paris Kitchen. A few cookbooks, a famously miniscule home-restaurant and a couple of television deals later, and Khoo has just packed up her trendily cramped Belleville kitchen and returned to England to film a follow-up show, Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook: London, which premieres this fortnight.

After eight years in Paris, the Le Cordon Bleu graduate says she’s looking forward to rediscovering her hometown and putting on a good show. “Paris is cool, but oh my goodness is it slow! London is so dynamic,” she says. “Everybody’s doing things from street food to pop-up restaurants. You get a flavour of some of the old, traditional London but this is definitely about what’s happening now. A chef once said the best food you could eat in Europe is in London, and I have to agree.”

Khoo, a self-described foodie ‘magpie’, is a Londoner by birth but her passion for French cuisine, combined with her half-Malaysian ethnicity, have helped cultivate her cooking styles, as well as leading her to adopt a ‘best of both worlds’ approach. “I take whatever shines and glistens from whatever country I visit,” she says. She’s already explored the likes of Stockholm, Barcelona, Istanbul and Naples to find foodie inspiration. In short, she admits to having a ‘fun, fresh and approachable style’.

Each episode of the new show offers a couple of heartily simple, usually French-inspired bites, with the occasional statement recipe. But don’t be mistaken – this isn’t one of those flamboyantly rustic serve-it-in-a-wheelbarrow gigs. From reinvented 70s Black Forest gateau bowls made with water balloons to mini Croque Madame muffins, the presentation is almost too adorable – basically, perfect for the nation famed for its high tea.

And what you see is what you get with Khoo. She says she’s a ‘hopeless actress’ – but also admits that TV life is ‘draining’. “I am who I am,” she admits, “and that’s why I think, when people criticise me or my performance, it’s hard to take because I haven’t created this character, you know? The person you see in front of the camera is me.”

This year Khoo has got her hands full with a new cookbook set to launch alongside the show, and various press trips worldwide. So is she planning to pop over to Hong Kong? “I absolutely love dim sum and Cantonese food – that comes from my Chinese-Malaysian dad – so fingers crossed for Asia!”

Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook: London Premieres Wed Feb 5 at 8pm on BBC Lifestyle. (NowTV #221/Cable TV #131).

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