A travel notebook inspires a cookbook


A graduate of Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, Rachel Khoo’s passion for patisserie lured her to Paris, where she obtained a pastry degree from Le Cordon Bleu. In addition to working in a Paris culinary bookstore and tea salon, La Cocotte, Rachel has written several popular cookbooks.

After years of living in Paris, Rachel recently returned to London and her food roots. Excited by London’s vivacious food scene, Rachel decided to make her hometown the focus of one part of her new cookbook, Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook. (You can enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of the book). Illustrations from Rachel’s actual travel notebook as well as photographs from her Instagram account are featured in the book; you can view samples above and below. We’re delighted to feature an excerpt from the introduction to the cookbook.


I carry a notebook everywhere, and it almost always ends up tattered, dog-eared and splashed with various food stains from eating my way around the world or cooking in my kitchen. The recipes, illustrations, kitchen titbits and tips that end up in my notebook are all something that I wanted to share. Recipes that reflect both my culinary past and my present, the places I’ve been, my kitchen experiences…a book that tells a story of how I cook in the kitchen.

After writing two cookbooks that chronicled my exploration of la cuisine fran├žaise, I felt it was time to show my true colours with this book. My childhood played a big part in forming my culinary DNA, but the experiences and cultures I’ve exposed myself to in my adult life have also been formative in the way my cooking style has evolved. The last several years have been packed tighter than a tin of sardines with adventures in places close to home and beyond. I’ve visited an eclectic range of places, from the Scandi-cool Stockholm and the fragrant delights of the East in Istanbul, to the slightly rough-aroundthe-edges Naples, as well as rediscovering my home town, London, with its vibrant, energetic food scene.

Rachel KhooEven though I’ve lived in Paris for eight years, I am not ‘that French woman off the telly’, as I’ve frequently been described since the Little Paris Kitchen TV show aired. I’m quite proudly British (despite the many years of British food bashing I endured in France), with a colourful culinary heritage, thanks to my Malaysian dad and Austrian mum. Living in Bavaria as a teenager has also played its part. My taste buds were stimulated from a young age with spices, flavours and smells from South-East Asia, sweet and heartwarming dishes from Austria, as well as some British classics like roast beef and Yorkshire puddings…

The famous communication philosopher Marshall McLuhan once said that ‘the medium is the message’. A cookbook has a tactile and personal element that a recipe on a tablet or TV show can’t have. Reading a tablet in the bathtub is a little more risky than reading a book. But this goes beyond the physical object for me. I think of a recipe as a little snapshot of what I’ve experienced, and putting them together in a book is like collating a personal culinary diary.

It’s a time-consuming process, but I love every part of it, from the research, recipe development and writing about my personal stories, to the photo shoot, where the book begins to take a visual shape. Writing a book may start off as a solitary activity, but the more the book progresses, the more essential it is to work with people you admire and find inspiring (more about them in the Acknowledgements). They all play a part in pushing me as a food writer and making the book the best it can be.

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