Ella Walker meets the YouTube cooking royalty to find out about his debut cookbook, The 7-Day Basket.
By some strange organisational alchemy, I have a finished copy of Ian Haste’s debut cookbook, The 7-Day Basket, before he’s even seen it.
Watching him take it in his hands for the first time, practically hugging it to his chest, you can see the big kid in him – he made this, it’s real.
At 42, ‘cookery book author’ is the latest in a string of different careers he’s bounded into.
In his 20s, the irrepressibly buoyant dad-of-two was a Norfolk gastro pub chef (“I put parsley on everything”), via the traditional route: He went from pulling pints to prepping for the chef, to covering said chef when he didn’t turn up for a lunch service, to taking charge.
His mum had taught him from a young age about the staples – “so I’d survive,” he says with a laugh – but he eventually realised cheffing wasn’t for him (blame those “horrendous hours”). And no, he doesn’t miss it, although he’s quite keen to own a pub one day.
Next came a decade-long stint as a business development manager with a gruelling commute into London every day, before Haste and his wife, Nic, decided to start a family, and Haste “put my hand in their air, stupidly” to stay at home with their babies. He says the “stupidly” with a huge, proud, luckiest-man-alive grin on his face.
Haste’s Kitchen, his YouTube channel, launched in 2014 and happily combines his cheffing knowledge with his business presentation skills, backed up by some heavy-duty social media nous: “I’ve got a YouTube family,” he says – which is something of an understatement. Dubbed the “first family of Youtube”, Haste’s wife, make-up artist Nic, her sister Sam (the two of them run make-up channel pixiwoo), and their twin brothers John and Jim Chapman, have a colossal combined YouTube, Twitter and Instagram following of around 21 million.
Haste found his own niche in an era pre-Deliciously Ella. “There was nothing online focusing on nice, easy, healthy home-cooking,” he remembers. “So I did a couple of videos – which were terrible, don’t watch them, ever!”
And now here he is, with 70 recipes bound in print, 92k YouTube subscribers of his own and 59k on Instagram, producing sponsored content for major supermarkets to boot.
But, like any shiny, seemingly perfect social media visage, there’s always more to it, and Haste’s food, fitness (he’s a total gym bunny) and eating habits are all intrinsically connected.
“[I’m a] very health-conscious individual anyway, had to be,” he explains. “My wife, going back a few years ago, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, so we looked at all the aspects that are food related.”
While The 7-Day Basket isn’t a diet cookbook, wrought undeviatingly from nutritional advice, eating well, healthily and with the seasons is important throughout (it’s thoroughly cheerful though, there’s still mac and cheese and steak and ale hotpot in there).
Its crux though is Haste’s 7-day basket concept: Have your cupboards stocked with essentials at home, then make a week’s worth of dinners from one basket of shopping.
The idea is to help cut household food waste, vary up meal planning, put twists on staple dishes, and encourage people to open the fridge and make connections between what they’re eating tonight, and how they’re going to eat later on in the week.
“I want people to be able to look at a bag of spinach and think, ‘I’m going to put that in a chicken saag for Monday, and I’m also going to tie that in with some pomegranate seeds on a Thursday with a lamb kebab’, so you’re using every last bit along the way,” says Haste.
The idea came to him while living with his mother-in-law during the six months it took to renovate his house in Hethersett, Norwich. Limited to a Tesco Metro populated largely by University of East Anglia students, he’d see them filling up their baskets “with the most random eclectic mix, and I’d see them the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and I thought, ‘They obviously don’t know how to join ingredients together to make more than one dish’.”
Cooking practicalities aside, Haste obviously adores food – and is faithful to the cause. “I always swore for my kids that every Sunday would be a roast type meal, and I’ve stuck to that, for seven years I’ve committed to that, whatever the weather as well,” he says with a shake of his head.
Go for dinner with him and he’s likely to disappear for 20 minutes to cajole a recipe out of the chef too. His Maldivian chicken curry for instance was magpied on holiday in the Maldives (“I ate this curry five out of seven days,” he says, laughing at himself. “It was that good”), while he’s still trying to extract the king prawn pathia recipe from his local curry house.
“It’s incredible,” he says, arms thrown in the air excitedly. “It’s the witches’ potion, I haven’t got a clue how he’s made it, but I can usually taste things and within reason I can make it again. [But] no, I’ve made it so stupidly hot, so stupidly limey…
“I always say, if you like something a lot, compliment the chef, say to them, ‘That was absolutely amazing’, and also say, ‘Can I have the recipe?’ There’s nothing wrong with that.”
And when you’re as open and affable as Haste, who could say no?
The 7-Day Basket by Ian Haste, photography by Al Richardson, is published by Headline, priced £25. Available July 11.