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A Chat with Jai Parsons

Digital Assistant Eleanor Bally interviews aspiring chef Jai Parsons.

Aspiring chef Jai Parsons is all kitted up for gym in first period. 17 years old with a friendly grin and a cool haircut, he sits across from me in the Creative Learning office at Castlebrae Community High School looking relaxed and confident. And no wonder. This young man, with the help of The Edinburgh International Festival’s Creative Learning programme, and award-winning event caterers Appetite Direct conceived and developed the canapés for the International Festival’s launch event last week. A short interview for the International Festival blog will be a breeze.

How did you get interested in cooking?

My teacher in Home Economics, she asked me if I wanted to do a competition after school. And I wasn’t really bothered with it, but then I kind of just took it up and went along with it, and then I won the first competition. That set me forward, winning the Edinburgh one, and then after that I went to the Regional and National competitions. So that was good.

Where was the national competition?

It was in London. Second place eh, out of 8000 people!

That’s fantastic! And what’s your favourite dish to prepare?

I’d probably say fish – lemon sole or hake. It’s what I’ve always cooked in the competitions.

And what was it like working with Appetite Direct to design the canapés for the Edinburgh International Festival programme launch? Was it fun? Was it stressful?

It was fun like, but I suppose every job is quite stressful at some point. When you’ve got all these canapés to do – I think it was like, 3000.

How many different canapés did you design in the end?

I think it five. Brandade, the haggis choux pastries, salmon and cucumber skewers, teriyaki and the cones.*  

What are your career aspirations? Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Hopefully somewhere in France, maybe. I’ve never been to France before but I’d like to work over there, or maybe Australia. Both countries are quite big in food really, some great restaurants over there.

That sounds really exciting! So travel combined with career?

Yeah, I’d like to travel…like, everywhere. If I could.

And what do you like to do when you’re not cooking?

I go to the gym, five times a week. It’s just really self weight stuff, it’s not lifting weights and that. I do cardio, hitting the bag, and all that type of stuff.

Nice. Well, thank you so much for talking to me, it was lovely to meet you properly, and good luck! 

Jai had the opportunity to work with Appetite Direct as part of the International Festival’s three year arts residency at Castlebrae Community High school. This is the second year of a three year partnership between the International Festival, Castlebrae Community High School and the City of Edinburgh Council Creative Learning Department – which includes workshops, events, bespoke mentoring and work experience. The programme not only includes activities focussed around the performing arts and International Festival productions, but also highlights other aspects of the International Festival’s work and the varied professional skillsets required in its delivery.

Already a talented and keen amateur chef, Jai was offered professional mentoring with Nigel and the Appetite Direct team, who have been catering partner of the International Festival for three years.  Jai used his experience from his part-time job as a trainee chef at Prestonfield House, to research his own ideas for the menu, which were then developed and delivered with the Appetite team. 

* With the help of event caterers Appetite Direct, Jai conceived and developed five canapés for the Edinburgh International Festival 2016 programme launch event: Brandade of hake with aioli, Haggis gougères choux buns, Cured salmon and compressed cucumber skewers, Teriyaki beef served in chopsticks, Mini savoury cone filled with onion relish and topped with whipped goats cheese.

Photo: Aly Wight

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