Alex Hollywood- “adversity can bring out the best in us...”
We are so excited to share with you this blog from Alex Hollywood, TV Chef, home cook and author! She shares her story with us- from being a mum to a teenager, growing up around food, and her amazing career! This one is definitely worth a read...
I grew up in a rambling old house by the coast in a multinational and totally food-obsessed family, with strong French Spanish and Norwegian background. Our door was always open, there was a constant stream of visitors and wonderful aromas of food cooked for big friendly lunches wafted from our kitchen. Most of my summers were spent with my French Godmother in the south of France and my family would then drive down to collect me to head to our house in southern Spain. We would plan our journey according to wherever the best auberge, restaurant or food market was, so I grew up with the firm belief that good food is as important as the air we breathe.
I went to an all-girls Convent and then onto college and Secretarial school. My mother had hoped with my linguistic skills I would become a translator but I had other ideas and ended up in London eventually working in PR before heading abroad where I spent a few years in France running private catered Chalets and then working in the hotel and catering industry for 5* hotels. It found me rather than the other way around because food was something I knew about.
After moving to Cyprus I got married. My husband was working as Baker, I was running the restaurant PR and was looking after a film crew who were there to make a food programme for the UK.
We headed back to the UK where we spent quite a few years trying to break into Media business and it definitely wasn’t easy, our son had just been born and we had set up a bakery and delicatessen; and I worked promoting our business writing press releases & food articles and went out promoting and selling products to big London food halls, local retailers and farm shops, all with my baby strapped into the car seat next to me.
As the years progressed, I began writing more and more. It was something I had always loved and excelled at and so I collated and created new recipes for books, editorials and tv shows. I was eventually approached by a publisher and asked to write my own book ‘My Busy Kitchen’ which was a reflection of my heritage and how I cook every day. By this time I had a social media presence and was doing guest cookery slots on daytime tv. I was writing more and more for various editorials but due to the intense public scrutiny that was growing over my marriage decided to try to stay in the background.
Fast forward to now and although my life has changed completely there are many positives that have come my way. I am still writing, my second book came out ‘ Cooking Tonight, I’m booked to do Food Shows all around the country- which I love. I write food articles, do book signings and create recipes for many well-known editorials and have also gone back to appearing on various cooking slots on TV which is great fun. I’ve taken up running (I’m not very fast), I play tennis, swim, I love walking my dog, Rufus, here in the Kent countryside and you’ll usually find me in the kitchen writing or cooking for family and friends. There Is no greater pleasure for me than having all my family sitting around my table for a big Sunday lunch or inviting my friends for an impromptu garden supper!
I think I get my drive from my Norwegian Grandmother Vanda - she always said that Scandinavians are tough stock. She married a Frenchman lived in Paris and escaped the German invasion on the last train out of Paris. She came back to London and worked as an aide with the press corps for general de Gaulle getting people out of occupied France along the line. Vanda always used to quote an ancient Chinese proverb ‘ may you live in interesting times..’ the premise of this is that adversity can bring out the best in us...
I do think that gender can still create challenges especially in media or the food industry. For example- when you think of a chef you automatically think of a man in chefs whites and a tall white hat- not a woman, and my experience of media is that women are still very much judged on their looks and their age. It is changing slowly but I think we have a long way to go. I’ve been described in the media as silent and dignified, which begs the question are we still expected to be seen and not heard? So I do think women should use their voices more and their bodies less if we want to make a change and move forward...
My best piece of advice is what I tell my son. You need to be able to look at yourself In the mirror at the end of the day and ask yourself ‘Have I really done my best today?’ It isn’t easy, but taking a real look at ourselves and not seeing what we want to see but what is actually there is a great leveller and there’s always tomorrow!
My biggest achievement in life is being a mother. I think that role is so overlooked and underrated. There is no handbook, we have to learn each step of the way and everyone assumes you know what you’re doing. So when I see my son happy confident and well adjusted I can say to myself ‘Alex you’ve done ok’