That OFM award: A thanks to Nigel, Nigella and Allegra…

The highlight of the Observer Food Monthly awards last Thursday, for me, was being able to personally thank two of the people whose recipes I learned and loved over the last decade, to the point where, in my bleakest times of staring at a few white-labelled value range groceries and some frozen or canned vegetables, I could recall good recipes from my repertoire that – with a little tweak here and a substitution or two there – would form the basis of good, nutritious, cheap meals. Nigel Slater and Nigella Lawson might not have known it, but their books and their food instilled in me a love of cooking, and the confidence to explore, experiment and create, with what little I had.

My pasta alla genovese was based on a recipe from Lawson’s ‘Kitchen’ (albeit with sunflower oil instead of olive, tinned potatoes and cheap spaghetti) as was my Spanish chicken. Nigel Slater’s words, his columns, his books, took me through a looking glass into a wonderland of technicolor sensuality – from bleak desperation to tentative exploration of smells, tastes, flavours, in-season fruits and vegetables and the transformative effects of lots and lots of gorgeous garlic. I remember watching his Simple Suppers series, some years ago, always with a notebook and a pen in my hand, and digging out that notebook when times got tough. He unknowingly taught me about herbs, flavours, excited me, delighted me, talked to me about food in a language that felt like my own. There are other names on the list, other books in the pile, but Nigel and Nigella are owed the biggest Thankyou. And on Thursday night, shyly and grinning, I managed to let them know.

The other big name on the list is, of course, one Allegra McEvedy – whose book Economy Gastronomy adorned my kitchen bookshelf around about the same time as I was making notes from Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers. I remember jokingly pointing to a black and white portrait of her in her kitchen in 2010 or 2011 and saying to my housemate that she was ‘pretty bloody gorgeous.’ Just a passing comment. Just a thought.

I could never have dreamt that that kitchen in that picture would one day be my kitchen. But then I don’t think I could ever have dreamt that life would turn out the way it has. And from devouring the Leon book as part of my culinary education – most of it sitting on the floor in Waterstones where I picked it up and just couldn’t stop reading – to holding my hand on Thursday night as I nervously navigated the grandeur of the Observer Food Monthly Awards, she is my support, my guide, my mentor, my rock, my best friend, and I just can’t thank her enough, for everything.

And so I have a gorgeous new Blok knife to commemorate the year (and have already used it to chop up several kinds of fudge, a few cabbages for a coleslaw, and two accidental nicks out of my hand), and a deep, humbled gratitude to everyone who nominated and voted for me for the OFM award. Truly, this has been a year to remember. Thankyou.

Jack. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe

Categories: Blog


  1. Congratulations, Jack! I’ll have to buy your books to feel more confident when I cook. Best regards from México.

  2. 🙂 I’m so happy things have changed for you and Small Boy; it’s like a modern-day fairy tale except that you worked bloody hard for your success rather than making a wish or marrying a prince you only met a week before.

  3. well deserved success. Your new book on my waiting mist and your first one informing my cooking anew. Well done, enjoy your love and stability and only take notice of the good vibes sent your way. The other crap just isn’t worth paying attention to – especially when you consider where it comes from! Onwards and upwards Jack, you’ve done a Good Thing.

  4. So so pleased that things have turned out well for you. Just shows-sheer hard work, determination and courage win through in the end.

  5. What a beautiful post. I have also been inspired by Nigel and Nigella (and you, of course – lunch today was your aubergine curry). They both write so extraordinarily well, and also make you feel you just can’t wait to get in the kitchen. Lovely to hear of your journey – here’s to many more happy years!

  6. Well done have loved all the recipe’s I have tried from your book looking forward to the next one. x

  7. How brilliant to watch your journey from such unhappiness and poverty to joy and security, and to see all you’ve done for others on the way. Took a big bag into Harvest Festival a couple of weeks ago, knowing it would go to a food bank, and went all round the shop with your recipes in mind. I am quite certain I wasn’t alone.

    So lovely to know good things do, sometimes, happen to good people.

  8. What a lovely tribute to those who have inspired you. And You have inspired us. We a bursting with pride for your success, as we have followed you for a few years. Now please, can you convert everything for us Americans? Ann

  9. Many, many congratulations on the OFM award. Nobody deserves recognition and success more than you, Jack. It’s one in the eye for the pretentious faddy trying to hard to impress blogs that litter the net who put far more people off cooking than they inspire.

    I’m not one to wish my life away but I’m longing for Thursday and the arrival of your new book.

    So many of your recipes can be cooked from storecupboard ingredients without having to go on a mammoth shopping trek, so X fingers that a new Jack recipe will be on the menu for Thursday evening.

    I love Nigel Slater too, a fundamentally very decent human being and genius writer who happens to be a wonderful source of inspiration in the kitchen. May you and Nigel keep it real for a very long time yet.

  10. Congratulations! Keep up the good work.
    People need more than ever inspiration. Eating is a basic human need. Why not join necessity and pleasure in the kitchen? Showing that everyone can try and learn to make tasty, healthy food with little money. Using my hands,my brain and imagination in the kitchen is so inspiring and relaxing and the result is mostly great.

  11. In a world that scares me, it’s just wonderful when a seriously high-class human being, as you are Jack, is recognised and rewarded. Enjoy the moment and your evident happiness.

  12. In a world that scares me, it’s positively uplifting when a high class human being – which is what I believe you are, Jack – is recognised and rewarded. I wish you enjoyment of this moment and long-lasting happiness in a relationship that so obviously thrills you.

  13. I’ve always liked cookbooks, partly for the recipes and partly because, in tougher times, they looked so colourful and cheerful in a bleak kitchen in a rented studio. Your first book is easily the one I reach for most these days. Cheap, but delicious eats, and actually realistic ingredients and cooking times for those of us who work full-time, and then commute, and don’t feel like spending an hour and a half faffing about with some ingredients you’ve had to buy from a specialist shop, when we get home!

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