An interview with Miles Jupp
Miles Jupp explains how he created cookery writer Damien Trench and the world of In and Out of the Kitchen.
For the fools who missed series 1, can you sum up In and Out of the Kitchen?
I liked the idea of someone who writes in a very calm, measured way... but who in reality is easily flustered, jumpy and impatient.Miles Jupp
It's a series about a cookery writer, Damien Trench and his partner, Anthony. Damien doesn't know it, but he's a rather anxious and neurotic man who obsesses over his integrity and methods and who is happiest when in his kitchen or at his desk. Anthony is more practical but also out of work, having lost his job in the financial world during the downturn. They live in the Queen's Park area of North London and enjoy an enviably straightforward existence, if they cared to notice. They are always having building work done. In the first series they were having extensive work done on the kitchen, and this series the builder, Irish giant Mr Mullaney, is doing a loft extension for them. The stories are told through a combination of dialogue, diary entries and recipes.
Were Damien and Anthony inspired by anyone in particular?
Anthony is a concoction entirely of my own. Well, he was originally. But when I was writing the first series I didn't know who would play him. This time around, as with all the characters, I was writing with a particular actor in mind - in this instance the tremendous Justin Edwards. So he is increasingly inspired by Justin, whilst at the same time being not all that much like him.
Damien is inspired by any number of cookery writers who I love reading. I suppose the point is that you read these people, and they somehow manage to make their lives sound completely idyllic. Perhaps their lives are like that, but I liked the idea of someone who writes in a very calm, measured way and whose work is enjoyed by an aspirational audience, but who in reality is easily flustered, jumpy and impatient. It's not really a piss-take. I love that Eric Idle wrote The Rutles because he wished he'd been one of The Beatles. In the same way I might read someone like Simon Hopkinson, or Elizabeth David or Nigel Slater and wish I had their life. Or house.
Damien was having a nightmare with his own kitchen last series – have the builders finally finished?
Oh yes, the kitchen is done. And he's done a great job, Mr Mullaney. He's an excellent builder. That's actually a feature of the series. I want the people in it to be really good at their jobs: Mullaney's a good builder, Damien's a good writer, Frobisher's an exceptionally good literary agent, and Anthony has a great head for figures etc. I don't want jokes about incompetence - I want them, if at all, to arise out a lack of awareness.
The loft is the big job building-wise [in this series]. I think it'll be a sort of study-come-dojo.
Each episode features recipes suited to an occasion or theme – for example, episode 2 is all about Valentine’s Day. Do you cook for your own family?
I am not a great one for showpiece cookery. In fact I hardly ever cook now. I have at various times been really into it, but then I've kept coming across people who are so very, very good that it's sort of knocked my confidence. Damien is a great cook, but I'm a bit more Ryvita and peanut butter myself. I'm all about the light snack. I can't even remember the last time I really cooked something properly. Although it is Valentine's Day soon, isn't it? I ought to do something pretty special for that.
How do you create the recipes?
All I do is try and think of something that would be an appropriate meal to fit in with that bit of the story. Then I look up a few different versions of that recipe, knock up a workable version and then go through a process of "Damienizing" it - describing techniques in terms that are more florid than practical. I try and think of vaguely humorous ways of describing amounts and so forth. They're largely classics or staples that everyone has a version of. I play around with quantities and proportions as well, and push for the fanciest versions of things. I've not cooked any of them, although the sound editor has. They'd probably be reasonably edible, if a little more expensive than they'd need to be.
Would you recommend any of the recipes for listeners to try?
Anything that isn't "pilchards al limone", or whatever the hangover cure was from the first episode - that would probably damage your stomach lining.
What’s next for Damien Trench?
Who can say? The guy's a free spirit. Actually that's the absolute opposite of what he is. He is probably reasonably content with the way things are, although one can always do with more space. He would like to keep writing about cookery for various publications, but obviously the slow death of the print media must be something that concerns him. He and the internet do not mix well.
I've got a few plans for him. I'd really like to do a full Damien book, hard backed and with lavish photographs.