From fixing the nation’s fashion disasters to spicing up our food, following his successful debut recipe book, Gok Wan is back for seconds.
When Gok Wan ventured into the kitchen in 2012, with his recipe book Gok Cooks Chinese and accompanying Channel 4 TV series, it proved every bit as successful as his wardrobe-based endeavours.
Drawing on skills he’d picked up while working in his parents’ restaurant, growing up in Leicestershire, the show was a hit and the book spent 10 weeks at the top of the bestseller chart, with the unlikely newcomer proving a match for foodie heavyweights like Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver.
He’s now back with a second book, Gok’s Wok, and where his debut was an homage of sorts to his family and Chinese roots, this one’s personal for other reasons.
“I wanted it to look like a fashion book, for starters,” he says, with his trademark enthusiasm. “That was the brief and that goes throughout, from the styling of the photographs, the layout, illustrations, fonts, everything.”
Around 30 of the dishes featured were left over from putting together his first book and the rest he wrote especially, including tried-and-tested favourites he regularly cooks for friends at home, and inspired by his travels all over Asia.
“I spent several weeks writing,” he says, “Two weeks perfecting dishes, another two in my kitchen with a home economist, Rob, and then a few more to cook the dishes for photography.
“We were doing 10 dishes a day at one point, so everyone where I live was incredibly well-fed,” he adds, grinning. “It’s not long, compared to other people who might spend six months writing a book, but with everything else going on, I don’t have that luxury of time, so I just had to focus, concentrate and get through it.”
Each recipe comes with detailed nutritional information and there’s an emphasis on eating healthily. Wan has famously struggled with his weight and now, having it fully under control at 39, he recently gave up the 40-a-day cigarette habit - is all too aware of how what he eats affects his body and moods.
“We have to get healthier as a nation, no matter what anyone says. I want to be clear, though, I didn’t want to write a diet book and this could never pretend to be one,” he says, firmly.
“If I eat well, I get my work done effectively. If I overload, I feel sluggish and slow. It’s taken a long time to understand and respect that, having lived on a diet of predominantly fast food when I was younger.
“What I want to say to people is that they have choices. Just as there are styles and clothes for every body type, there’s food for every body.”
He wanted to get this message across without forcing anything down anyone’s throat, no pun intended, and taste had to come first: “If a dish is no good, because you take all the oil out or whatever, then it wouldn’t have gone in the book. I’m a slave to my palate.”