Born in Southhampton, 32 year old Jette Virdi has spent most of her life travelling. She came to Ireland, via owning a hotel in Mexico, to spend 3 months at The Ballymaloe Cookery School.
As 'The Creatives’ she puts on a number of workshops and banquets with profits going to local community projects. We wanted to find out more so we met her in the Smithfield Fruit Market where we found her picking up some props for a shoot.
So, who is Jette?
Jette Virdi, 32 years and born in Southampton. I'm half Indian and although I've lived most of my life outside of the UK so not sure if I really count as British.
How did you end up doing food styling and running banquets? What is your background?
I was living in Australia for a while and when I left I wasn't really sure what to do. I had always wanted to own my hotel and one day my father rang me to say he had found an old estate in Mexico where he was working. It was an old hacienda that had been abandoned for 50 years and we just went for it. I designed and renovated it. 100% solar power, recycled all the water, grew organic veggies and had guests. It was great fun and life was full of beaches, sunshine and having a wonderful time really.
However after a number of years I grew tired of living in Mexico and needed a change. Having done private chefing on and off over the years, I decided to go to the Ballymaloe Cookery School for 3 months.
While I was there I came across Sharon Hearne Smith, a food stylist who has worked with Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey and I got in touch with her to see if I could go help, learn and see what it was all about. She said yes and I found myself working with Neven Maguire on his cookbook 'The Nations Favourite’. Two months later I was back in Dublin working on Donal Skehan’s and Sharon’s own cookbook. I was renting a couch and just seeing how it would play out. Sharon put her faith in me and I’m now in my second year here in Dublin with clients include Rachel Allen, Eurospar, Bash and Image Interiors Magazine, amongst others, as well as some food producers. It's been a whirlwind.
What is your favourite thing about working with food
How it brings people together.
Who has been your greatest inspiration
Both Madhur Jaffrey and my Mum. Madhur Jaffrey is this amazing food writer, although she'd call herself an actress first, and is able to tell stories through food. It's really beautiful reading. My Mum because she's pushed me to be myself, not to go down the steady job, boring life route. It's always "where shall we go next, what do you want to be this week".
What piece of equipment do you wish you had?
A Blow torch! Those things are so much fun!
Whats the most difficult thing about working in or with food?
That you get to eat it all and if you have no will power...well there's a problem...
Where do you get your inspiration?
Instagram and pinterest would be my two massive ones.
Tell us about The Creatives and the Long Table Suppers and workshops you run?
The Long Table Suppers were a way for me to use my skills in events and styling and those skills of my friends to put on an event that could make a difference to the community we're living in and meet interesting people long the way. All proceeds from the Suppers go to a local community project. I think it's really important to try and make the place you live in better whether that's volunteering, help fundraise or create awareness.
Our next one is for the Marriage Equality campaign on the 20th March 2015 and will be for 100 people with 6 local and seasonal courses, welcome cocktails, with some help from The Dingle Distillery, and lots of live music. Again, all profits will go to the Equality campaign. (You can get tickets for this dinner here)
We're also planning on taking the Long Table Suppers overseas and are busy working with spaces in Amsterdam and London using the same ethos.
The Creatives Workshops were borne out of frustration really. There are plenty of workshops out there but none that really inspired me. Our first workshop on Calligraphy was a huge success and the next workshop about salt is on the 22nd March. It will be a 3 hour session of cocktails, nibbles, learning the process of making salt and then getting to try out different recipes and ideas (You can get tickets to this workshop here)
We also have several longer Creative Workshops coming up where over 3 full days it will be hands on learning a variety of different creative skills from calligraphy and writing to food and photography plus lots more! Very exciting.
Your 5 food places in the world to visit and why
So hard and in no particular order!
- Coqui Coqui in Tulum, Mexico the beach is the best in the world and the food is to die for plus they're friends of mine so it makes it like home.
- Mud crabbing in Darwin in Australia, freshly caught mud crabs with a cold beer..heaven
- Borough Market. It's iconic and a must see once in your life
- Any market in India. The smells, colours, vendors.
- Seeing fresh Irish caught Tuna coming off the boats in Dingle and then making sushi is a pretty amazing experience.