Family Food Magazine
real good family food
  • Chef on a Mission


    OmarWords Dawn Cromar

    Dawn Cromar chats to the man Gordon Ramsay has dubbed “the Antonio Banderas of cooking” . . .

    Omar Allibhoy is a chef on a mission. For he wants to make the British public fall in love with Spanish food in the same way we have taken Chinese and Indian cuisine into our hearts.

    And he believes one of the best ways of achieving this, is by introducing more Spanish influenced meals into the family diet.

    Omar, who runs tapas restaurants in London and Kent, feels that Spanish food is under represented in the UK and hopes to introduce younger children to the cuisine.

    “I definitely think that if children can enjoy more Spanish food from a young age, then we have fought half of the battle,” he said. “These are the next generation of food lovers who will really shape the UK food scene in the coming years.”

    Omar, who has made numerous television appearances on shows including Market Kitchen, Masterchef and This Morning, says there is a great influence on meal times for families in Spain and food is a big part of family culture.

    “At a young age I remember sitting on the floor looking up at ovens and pans and watching my mum in action,” he said. “The delicious smells and aromas from the kitchen really appealed to me and I was very keen to experiment. At five-years-old I was whisking eggs and being lifted up to the kitchen counter to see my mum and professional chefs at work.

    “In Spain, people’s relationship with food grows from a young age and meal times with family and friends are a special occasion at the table, but I don’t feel that this is really the case in the UK and this is what I hope to change through my honest Spanish cooking.”

    Spanish food is not only incredibly sociable – tapas in particular is designed to be enjoyed and shared amongst friends – but it can also be very healthy.

    “The Mediterranean, and in particular the Spanish diet, is very nutritious with protein rich meats and fish playing a central role in a large majority of dishes,” adds Omar. “Salads are also a great mealtime option in Spain and something that I personally enjoy experimenting with at home. Some classic meals that I like to enjoy when I go back to visit my family in Madrid are tortillas, fresh sea bass and anything with olives, as they are one of my favourite ingredients!”

    Omar also believes that children in Spain are exposed to wider range of tastes than youngsters in Britain.

    “I think this has a lot to do with the fact that in Spain there are lots of fresh, unique and interesting foods available in supermarkets, whereas in the UK I see ready meals dominating meal times for children, which is a real shame. As a child I was exposed to lots of different flavours and textures, which was a direct result of my parents and grandparents feeding me the same things that they were eating. If you give children the foods that you are eating as a parent the chances are that they will grow to appreciate good food and great flavour.”

    He says parents shouldn’t be afraid to try and become a bit more adventurous in the kitchen and to encourage youngsters to try something a bit different.

    “I would say don’t be put off by texture and appearance as these are often the main influencing factors when it comes to enjoying food at a young age – instead try and make food look and act more exciting. My nieces and nephews love olives, which a lot of people in the UK would probably find quite strange, but we stuff them with manchego cheese and deep fry in breadcrumbs to turn them into an appetising snack – they’re definitely worth a try!

    “The most important thing is to keep trying new things and to never just settle on the dishes that you know and love as there’s so much interesting cuisine out there that you could be missing out on. In the UK you do see this happening with Indian, Thai and Italian cuisine really dominating the food scene and so I’m trying to show people how easy and exciting Spanish food is to prepare at home. I think it’s also important that people see cooking as less of a chore and more of an enjoyable experience, which is why Spanish cooking is great as it’s quick, easy and most importantly fun!”

    Omar has recently created a range of quick and healthy recipes with Olives from Spain, to show people how versatile, nutritious and tasty this traditional Spanish ingredient is. One of his favourites is Braised Chicken with Olives, followed by the Chocolate Olive Truffles.

    For more of Omar’s olive inspired recipes, visit

Leave a reply