Having told the stories of his adolescence and university years in his hit radio feature 24 Years at The Tap End, for years and becoming a household name in radio and television, I wanted to chat with Chris about his new cookbook for students, Eat Sleep Zoom Reheat, ahead of what is set to be a very different Freshers.
The SoccerAid commentator and Robin to Scott Mills’ Batman released his debut book, Eat Sleep Zoom Reheat this month and he says it is a “student cookbook that actually has recipes you can cook as a student”. He fondly remembers receiving student cookbooks as gifts from his grandmother when he went to the University of Southampton, and he was hopeless in the kitchen like many freshers are. Now however Chris says “I love cooking now, I have a real passion for it, and so I wanted to write this cookbook and include loads of stories from my time at university”.
Chris got into radio while he was at the University of Southampton, with their hit student station Surge, providing him with lots of opportunities. With the current situation surrounding starting university being slightly different and uncertain, Chris wanted to “make something, that if you’re going to uni…a proper student cookbook that is actually written by someone who has been a student…There’s nothing snooty about it, I’m just a guy who went to uni and couldn’t cook anything and loves food.”. Chris remembers his time as a student fondly, but his culinary escapades were not always flawless. “I made a lot of mistakes when I was a fresher, this ranged from boiling pasta in the kettle rather than on the hob, I tried to cut out the middleman and do pasta straight in the kettle”. He didnt take to the student kitchen straight away at all, he says,“I actually found the student kitchen a bit intimidating”. So from a broken kettle to cheese on toast meaning his whole block in Halls had to be evacuated; Chris was by no means Michelin starred.
A huge part of student life that many new students may miss out on this coming year is the night out. But, the best bit of many nights out in Southampton, particularly at the iconic Jesters after one too many Jesticles (google it), is the trip to curry house Manzils which serves a sit down curry all night into the early hours. Sitting down for a curry, hammered with your mates at 3am after a messy night is a mad experience and one all Southampton students have to try. Chris remembers Manzils fondly and about the much loved owner Tariq, he said, “I stay in touch with him a little bit and I just love him and his family, and I think anyone that goes to Southampton Uni respects people like Tariq”.
While at uni, Chris lived off a fairly standard student diet of chicken nuggets and fish fingers and meals his mother would send him back to uni with. He looks back at the time and said, “I love cooking now and I wish I’d had that passion then, it is a great opportunity at uni, when you are in the kitchen with people around. Yeah the washing up is long but what we have tried to do with this book is find recipes where people can actually give them a go.” The diet Chris had at uni, combined with the lifestyle of a young DJ and student, Chris didn’t always take the best care of himself, and reflects on how he was always tired and busy, and didn’t really think about how what he was eating was affecting him.
There were however, some moments where Chris was proud of his cooking skills at uni, he remembers in particular a really special sausage and mash with onions and cheese in the potatoes. It’s the simple dishes, and now he has become a little more adventurous in the kitchen, Chris loves a simple barbeque. Now a father and husband, Chris loves cooking for his family and friends with a beer in hand. He said affectionately, “I love making things that make people smile”. This book may just be able to pass on that feeling to a new generation of students.
With so much changing this year, Chris had some advice for new students: “Everyone going to uni is still going to have the most unbelievable time. The main things about uni aren’t the big nights out and Freshers… I sort of did Freshers Week and then carried on for five more weeks and I didnt focus on joining societies and teams, so maybe the pandemic might just help people focus on something other than partying”. Wise words heading into the new academic year.
Since we won’t be catching Chris at any club nights, doing the usual Freshers DJ circuit, give Eat Sleep Zoom Reheat a read and see what you can cook up, whether you are a student or not!
Words by Imogen Brighty-Potts
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