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Tell us about the genesis of FoodSlut:
Marcus Petty-Saphon: Jack and I have cooked together ever since we first met at Manchester University. In lockdown we started posting recipes we cooked on Instagram @FoodSlut, gaining quite a following. I’d also run a chicken sandwich competition at the start of lockdown just for our friends. It was a lot of fun, so we decided to do it on a larger scale and the Stay At Home Burger Battle was born.
Is your FoodSlut blog a celebration of food for its own Epicurean sake as a bit of a backlash against yet another healthy option or diet-driven recipe?
Jack Whitehall: ‘We know of course that you can’t eat like this all the time – cholesterol would get the better of you. But we love food for taste’s sake and we think it’s okay to indulge now and then. Let’s face it, if you’re going to cook something delicious, it’s going to taste better cooked in bacon fat than coconut oil.
Who’s behind the FoodSlut recipes?
Marcus: We take inspiration from several sources. We have our favourite YouTube chefs, like Guga Foods, Chef John and Sam the Cooking Guy, who we watch regularly. Other times we just stumble on a recipe and think of ways we can slut it up.
Jack: Sometimes you’ve just got to listen to your gut; give in to your cravings and not let that guilty voice in your ear stop you.
Do you invite contributions from around the world and how does a dish qualify?
Marcus: Yes we do. We currently have our inner circle of FoodSlut contributors, such as @hilarywhitehall @bboxfood @jessicadoesfood @mrtommycampbell, who are all amazing cooks and regularly send in photos and recipes.
If someone has an idea for a slutty dish they think will do well on our page, then we’re more than happy to post it, providing they give us the recipe. We want people to cook FoodSlut dishes at home.
Taste is obviously the key sense with food, but you’re very much playing on its visual power too?
Marcus: People say you eat with your eyes. We like to see something that looks amazing and think ‘I can make that’. The recipes that do best are the simple and accessible ones.
I think our two most popular posts are fish & chips and the BLT sandwich.
You ran the Burger Battle competition. How did that go and what led to the partnership with The Felix Project?
Jack: We always wanted to do the Burger Battle for a food charity. As it happened we got an email from a friend just as we were planning the competition. They were working with The Felix Project (thefelixproject.org) whose work is incredible and so important and we continue to support the charity through the DIY Burger Kits.
Marcus: The competition was a really fun thing to do. We had over 200 entries with some incredible burgers, some of them true works of art; others that gave you a heart attack just looking at them. You can see them all on our website. It broke up the cycle of takeaway pizzas and falling asleep watching The Chase.
How are the DIY Burger Kits going?
Marcus: They are doing great. A friend of ours runs a catering company and had the idea. To give fellow burger lovers the tools to make their own, we felt we were doing our bit to help people through lockdown. So far everyone’s who’s had one loves them. I may be biased but I think it’s one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.
What are you food backgrounds?
Jack: My whole family are into cooking and are really good cooks. Actually I say my ‘whole’ family, but my father Michael is definitely not a good cook. I like to think I know my way round the kitchen. I’m not claiming to be Jamie Oliver, but I did win Celebrity MasterChef.
Marcus: That was against Micky Flanagan (for Comic Relief). And didn’t you lose to your dad?
Jack: Micky was a hard man to beat. And I don’t know what you’re talking about..
(Marcus is referring to Jack challenging his father to a MasterChef competition in lockdown, judged by John Torode and Gregg Wallace. Jack’s pavlova controversially losing out to Michael’s spam-in-the-hole)
Marcus: My family has always been into cooking too and it was a big part of our lives growing up. In terms of formal training, I worked in a restaurant in Essex when at school, starting as a pot wash and progressing to starters and desserts, so technically I have worked as a chef.
Have you always been interested in cooking, or was it triggered by lockdown and eating at home as the only option?
Jack: This is something that started well before lockdown. We have a Christmas party every year, where we cook for about 50 of our friends. But lockdown forced our hand a little bit definitely. With more time and not leaving the house, slow cooking something for 10 hours no longer seemed out of the question.
BBQ is a natural bedfellow for FoodSlut. What are your BBQ favourites?
Marcus: I love everything to do with Texas BBQ – pulled pork, briskets, cooking low and slow. One thing we make regularly if we have BBQ leftovers is a Brunswick Stew, which I first had at Fox Bros Bar-B-Q in Atlanta, Georgia.
Jack: I love a bit of experimentation on the BBQ – to see things on there you just don’t expect to find, like when Michael threw some spam on the BBQ. Sure it was well past the charred stage, but surprisingly it worked. That said, there are limits. I once ate barbecued rat in Cambodia. They said it tasted like chicken. It tasted like what you’d imagine rat would taste like. So maybe stick to classics.
Any famous names who fancy themselves as BBQ chefs?
Marcus: I was impressed by Sir Chris Hoy (the Olympic cycling champion). He got up at 3am to start the pulled pork for his entry to the Stay at Home Burger Battle. James Haskell (former England rugby player see p75) brought one of those portable BBQs inside his kitchen because his wifi wasn’t good enough for Instagram Live. That’s dedication.
The draw of live fire and the whole concept of outdoor cooking and entertaining is on the rise. Do you see, post lockdown, this only increasing in popularity as people reset their lives?
Jack: I think a lot of people will have realised in lockdown that you can cook really good food at home. It seems as if outdoor entertaining is going to play a starring role this summer and I hope it’s going to stay with us long term.
Has cooking evolved from a necessity to a hobby and the joy of experimenting and learning?
Jack: Definitely. I think there is something really rewarding in cooking the food you eat and to cook for friends too. It’s not only that you can experiment; there is also no limit to decadence. You can just slut it up as much as you like. Embrace it.
How do you know each other?
Marcus: We met at Manchester University in 2007, where we were in the same halls of residence and we’ve been friends since. It was catered accommodation, but Jack refused to eat the meals provided. Frankly they weren’t very nice, so we ended up cooking together regularly and challenging ourselves to make great food on these weird little stoves they had in the hall’s kitchens.
Any other food-related projects, collaborations in the pipeline and where do you see FoodSlut heading?
Jack: We did a project with Marmite which went really well. We are also launching the Slut Truck at the outdoor cinema at Bleinheim Palace in Oxfordshire, where we’ll be serving our burgers. We just want to keep growing the brand and if opportunities for interesting collaborations come along, then we’d be up for doing them.
Jack Whitehall is an award-winning comedian, actor, television presenter and writer. Jack has also hosted many prestigious ceremonies, including the BRIT Awards and, alongside BBQ editor Rupert Bates (left), The WhatHouse? Awards, the biggest accolades in the housebuilding industry. You can see a short video from Jack to BBQ magazine on our website: www.thebbqmag.com
Marcus Petty-Saphon is a coder by trade and is also involved in the Forest Road Brewing Company, which started life in a garden in East London in 2015. The brewery even has a beer called POSH. Marcus has also had a few cameo roles in some of Jack’s shows.
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