James mixes it up to win top award award

FORMER Portadown man and leading UK home economist, James McIntosh, has won the influential Gourmand Cookbook UK award for his innovative back-to-basics recipe book, 'mix', writes Gail Bell

Mix won the Gourmand Best UK Series Cookbook and will now compete against the great and the good worldwide for the Gourmand Best World Cookbook Award which will be announced in May, 2009.

“This is really the Pulizter Prize of cookery books and I am truly honoured to have qualified,” said James. “To be recognised as one of the best food writers in the UK is rather humbling, especially as it is my first book. I am not sure where the gala dinner to announce the overall winner will be held, but it will be a bit like the Oscars - everyone dressed up and waiting for the winner’s name to be called!”

James, who runs the successful, London-based home economics company ‘Whisk’, was home at Ballylisk outside Tandragee for Christmas - but, much to his relief, he didn’t have to cook the turkey dinner himself. “I had been travelling all over Britain cooking Christmas dinner at Aga demonstrations, so I was very pleased that my mother cooked the turkey for Christmas,” he said. “I had already completed 57 Christmas dinner demonstrations for Aga and I travelled to them all by car, with the turkey in a bucket and strapped into the passenger seat beside me with a seatbelt.”

His mother though, is no novice herself when it comes to whipping up something half decent in the kitchen - she is Mrs Margaret McIntosh, Home Economics teacher at Killicomaine Junior High School, and was an early inspiration to her son who went on to take A-Level Home Economics at Portadown College and then a Master Degree in the subject at the University of Dundee.

As one of only two males in the high end of the home economics industry, James is used to addressing females at the various events for which he is booked - but his largest audience to date was a crowd of some 4,500 women who attended the World Home Economics Conference in Switzerland in July, where he was honoured to be the keynote speaker.

“That was quite an experience!” he said. “ I spoke on the subject ‘Digital Media and its impact on Consumerism and it seemed to be well received.”

Before starting up Whisk, James wrote the Cordon Bleu cookery books for the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London and also worked for the Good Housekeeping Institute. Throughout his career, which has brought him to destinations all over the world, his mantra has always been simple - to provide sound, practical, good housekeeping and cooking advice for families on ‘everyday’ budgets.

This concept is evident in his pocket-size book ‘mix’ which is being marketed as a comprehensive guide to basic proportions in cookery, giving the quantities needed for simple, everyday family food. Containing over 170 recipes, ‘mix’ demonstrates basics like how to make white sauce and prepare pastry and also includes tips on saving money on food and fuel.

“There are variations on all the recipes, but basically the book is a ‘mix’ of basic proportions which can be adapted and built upon,” said James. “Some glossy recipe books may look great on your coffee table, but aren’t that practical - who really wants to be running around the supermarket looking for Madagascar vanilla pod and then spend all afternoon in the kitchen following an over-complicated recipe?”

His next book ‘dinner’ will be on sale late January and will be sold through his website, www.jamesmcintosh.co.uk, and also at Captain Cook’s store in Portadown. Other forthcoming titles include ‘veg’ and ‘cake’.