in2 Interview: Cooking up a Bromance

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Masterchef Finalists 2016
Masterchef Finalists 2016

With Culinary Duo – Billy and Jack

WHEN Jane Devonshire was crowned 2016 MasterChef champion those of us who watched her cooking and confidence grow throughout the 12th series knew the 50-year old mum of four was the deserved winner.

With her final trio of spectacular dishes including winkles on toast, curried lamb and rhubarb and custard, fellow finalists and South-East London boys Billy Wright and Jack Layer heaped praise on her clinching the title.

“The best three dishes won today, and you can’t say fairer than that,” said Jack in gracious defeat.

Billy Jack and Jane
Masterchef finalists 2016

During the competition, Billy and Jack impressed the judges with their fun and creative approach to food. Jack wowed with his chocolate cake and marshmallow dessert described as a “work of genius” by Gregg and bubble and squeak gnocchi with homemade brown sauce which looked a triumph because of his eye for presentation. Billy served up a treat with dishes including southern fried quail and bacon waffles and his own version of a Shepherd’s Pie with a confit egg and lamb ragu.

But it was their unlikely bromance as the weeks progressed that viewers seemed to notice and when the show ended, instead of hanging up their aprons, the boys teamed up as a duo.

“When you’re making an hour and a half programme and you’re sitting around the studio waiting to film various parts you have a lot of time on your hands. We spent a lot of time together and enjoyed chatting about really geeky stuff as well as our passion and obsession for food and cooking. It also helps that we live near each other in Clapham and Fulham,” Jack explains.

“On teaming up after the show, it was Billy’s idea he simply said ‘do you want to do some cooking’ and to do it with a buddy was a no brainer. We didn’t have any grand plans, did some supper clubs that went really well and now we are cooking full time together.”
Billy and Jack’s supper clubs which show off their unique style of cooking continue to receive rave reviews. Dishes have included their take on bubble and squeak, pork, chicory and octopus and coriander cheesecake.

Masterchef Finalists 2016
Billy and Jack

Their most recent event was last week at Christopher’s restaurant in London where they served up a 5-course American/English tasting menu. They’ve also catered for private dining, commercial events and a big launch with Google earlier this year.

This summer they also hosted a residency supper club on top of the Royal Festival Hall. “It ran for 4-5 weeks across August and we fed just over 1200,” says Jack. “We have plans to do something similar just before Christmas.”

It helps that self-confessed food geeks have a similar culinary taste. “We have quite a similar ethos,” says Billy. “British food, British produce with a twist. It’s basically our take on the food we grew up with.”

In the kitchen with Billy and Jack
Billy and Jack Masterchef finalists 2016

Always open to new ideas and challenges this is an exciting time ahead for Billy and Jack.
“We will be popping up all over the place,” says Billy. “Next year we will be at all the food shows and hope to have more residencies. We are also writing our first
book – a really fun book about our love of cooking based on having fun in the kitchen.”
We can’t wait!

ON A PLATE WITH BILLY & JACK

What is your first food memory?
Billy – Chicken and chips with ketchup – or flapper and chips as we called it. It’s all we wanted to eat.
Jack – I was a very fussy baby up until my mum fed me adult food – then I never stopped eating. I think the first thing I ever ate was egg and chips.

Who has influenced your cooking the most?
Billy – Phil Howard, the two-Michelin-starred chef who has been at the helm of the Square for 25 years. I bought his book and taught myself all the techniques. I have massive respect for him.
Jack – Nigel Slater – there’s something about the lifestyle of food and how he writes about it.

What do you have in your fridge at home?
Billy – Lots of sauces – three different types of mustard, chilli sauce, Chinese sauce, West Indian… the list goes on.
Jack – I’m pickling stuff at the moment so have quite a few pickles in different brines to see how they turn out, including fermented green beans.

Best cooking tip for a novice?
Billy – Give yourself plenty of time
Jack – Buy yourself a good knife

For more information on Billy and Jack and their next supper clubs visit: www.billyandjack.co.uk

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