‘Seek Inspiration From Anything and Everything’ – Rachel Khoo talks cookbooks and creativity

It all started in Paris: from humble beginnings juggling a nannying job with French lessons and patisserie study at Le Cordon Bleu, to working at the culinary bookstore La Cocotte and hustling for cookbook deal number one. Then there was the pop-up restaurant run from the teeny tiny confines of a Parisian apartment, the accompanying book and television series, The Little Paris Kitchen, and then on to cookbooks number four, five and, just recently six.

If you haven’t already guessed, we’re talking about Khoollect Founder Rachel Khoo. This intrepid wunderluster with a staunch entrepreneurial spirit has a never-ending desire to learn, create and challenge herself to do bigger, better, different, more – this is one helluva sista doing it for herself!

After close to a decade spent living between Paris and London, and countless country-hops later, Rachel has relocated to the Swedish capital Stockholm. She’s embracing life in a wholly Scandi way and has just added a new member to the growing Khoo family, The Little Swedish Kitchen – a homage to her new life and culinary adventures in this idyllic Nordic haven.

After a manic year of juggling Khoollect Studio renovations, putting together a cookbook, and playing mum to a busy toddler, Rachel is trying (impossibly) to put one foot on the brakes and “work less, do more”…we took our chance and grabbed five minutes with this creative force:

Where do you currently call home and what inspires you about your city?

Stockholm. I’ve been living here for several years. We’ve had the most amazing summer with sunshine and hot weather everyday. It’s been fantastic being able to walk only five minutes to my local beach. I love the fact that you’re always just 100m away from a green space.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BlfP4ZnH-zp/?taken-by=rachelkhooks

You’ve just released your sixth book, The Little Swedish Kitchen; how did the process of creating this book compare to your first?

My first book was a French language cookbook called Muesli, Granola et Barres à Cérèales (Muesli, Granola and Muesli Bars). It was purely a collection of recipes, unlike my last four books which each capture a chapter of my life. The process of writing a book feels very familiar now, however each one has had its own unique challenges and I’m constantly looking to evolve and improve on the last.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bk4d5hCjy4A/?taken-by=rachelkhooks

How do you feel this book is different compared with your earlier books – has your style evolved?

I’ve always struggled with confidence in my writing. It’s not something that comes particularly easy to me and I’ve always aspired to write more like Anthony Bourdain, Gabrielle Hamilton, Nigel Slater or Nigella Lawson – evocative and poetic. With this book, I finally feel that I’ve found my voice and I’ve accepted my style. I always take my time to explain why and how each recipe came about – the context of a recipe is very important for me, otherwise it could be any cookbook.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BYbKTwznKo7/?taken-by=rachelkhooks

What can we expect to find inside the pages of The Little Swedish Kitchen?

I didn’t want to just write a cookbook about Swedish food, but a book that is deeply practical and would solve any or all cookery ‘problems’, such as: what to cook if you’ve only got 30 minutes to spare; or if you’ve got a vegetarian/carnivore/gluten intolerant guest joining the dinner table; or if you want to make something, light or rich or really indulgent…I basically thought of different scenarios that occur in everyday life and packed the book with distinctly Swedish recipes that could answer those calls (and more), and that also have a very strong personal connection to my life.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BeN1NeVn5V5/?taken-by=rachelkhooks

What challenges did you face along the way?

This book came with the brand new challenge of juggling motherhood and Khoollect (which at the time was made up of an editorial team of five people), as well as renovating the Khoollect Studio. In hindsight I really shouldn’t have taken so much on, but I did it all and survived to tell the tale. However, I did learn that sometimes less is more…

https://www.instagram.com/p/BllQ3F7HWBI/?taken-by=rachelkhooks

What inspires you?

People who can turn a challenge into an advantage: creative problem solving.

Tell us about a typical day in the life of Rachel Khoo?

People often don’t realise that there’s a lot more to what I do than writing cookbooks – that’s only a very small part of it. There’s a social media presence to maintain, PR and marketing to take care of, emails to respond to, and all the other day-to-day aspects involved with running a business (accounting, tax returns etc).  And then I’m always trying to come up with and pitch new ideas; it takes a lot of hustling to get an idea to or project to come to fruition (if people knew how many ideas I get rejected they would probably wonder how I keep going).

If you weren’t cooking and writing recipes for a living what would you be doing?

I’ve always envisaged myself doing something creative outside of the food industry and that’s partly why I set up Khoollect – to bring new opportunities and challenges to the table. I’m just as interested in solving business problems as I am in creating recipes.

Where do you find your motivation?

I think it’s so important to look outside the industry you work in and seek inspiration from anything and everything you can – most importantly, from the real world. Avoid being one-dimensional and going down the rabbit hole that is the internet and instead open the door and take a walk outside and look at things with fresh eyes. All sounds cheesy but I think there’s much to be said about experience things offline.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BlaMiBMH9Ao/?taken-by=rachelkhooks

I khoollect a few…

After years of gathering far too many vintage collectables, recipe books and old cameras, I’m trying to minimise my belongings. We live in a small flat in Stockholm where space comes at a premium, so I’m trying to take a Marie Kondo approach these days. I’ve been trying to declutter my bathroom for years but always seem to pick up a new product…and I must admit, I have a hard time saying no to a beautifully illustrated children’s book. And as you already know, I collect rather a lot of red lipsticks.

What’s your favourite item in your khoollection?

I still have a few books from my childhood – A Birthday for Frances was, and still is, a particular favourite of mine.

Your three desert island must-haves?

1. Some sort of guide book for dummies along the lines of ‘How to Survive on a Tropical Island’ – The Dummies series has come in very handy in the past; I can still remember teaching myself to code a website from one of those books 15 years ago.

2. A sharp knife

3. A radio – I love listening to the radio and have it on from the moment I wake up to just before I go to bed. It’s a great way of connecting to countries I used to live in (I have a digital radio which means you can hook on to almost any radio station in the world).

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bk-qlW2H8_C/?taken-by=rachelkhooks

A life lesson that you’d tell your younger self?

Embrace failures as something you can learn from – they can help you improve and get closer to your goal. Without failure there is no success.

Favourite corner of the Internet? 

Podcasts – I absolutely love them. It was such a blessing to have them as company during the winter months when I was out pushing the buggy in the cold. I enjoy everything from serious hardcore business stuff, to inspiring interviews with women from all walks of life, to light-hearted dinner banter. You can read about some of my favourites over here.

https://www.instagram.com/p/1Z967WLwj9/?taken-by=rachelkhooks

Can you imagine a world without the internet? What’s the first thing you’d do ‘offline’? 

Improve my surfing: I did a bit of surfing a couple of years ago, and even though waves terrify me (and the thought of sharks) I got totally hooked.

Rachel Khoo’s new cookbook, The Little Swedish Kitchen is out now. Order it on amazon.

Follow Rachel on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

You may also like

Profile Photo
WRITTEN BY:
Bex Shannon

Hailing from far away New Zealand, Bex is into music, travel and everything vintage and retro. She h...

READ MORE BY Bex Shannon

You decide

Your dream holiday destination

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Read more...

Try out some of Rachel’s recipes from The Little Swedish Kitchen:

Win a copy of The Little Swedish Kitchen

Find out Rachel’s favourite podcasts

Explore Stockholm with Rachel