‘Very surreal’: Crouch End entrepreneur in final five of Jamie Oliver's new show
- Credit: Richard Clatworthy
A Crouch End entrepreneur and mum of three has made it to the final five in Jamie Oliver’s new Channel 4 show The Great Cookbook Challenge.
Dominique Woolf, 43, launched The Woolf’s Kitchen in June 2020, during the first lockdown. Initially focussing specifically on Asian-inspired sauces, winning her accolades such as being a finalist in Enterprise Nation’s Female Start-up of the Year Award, she has since expanded her offerings to include a range of nuts and chilli oils. And, of course, more sauces.
Listings in stores including Selfridges and further successes such as winning four Great Taste Awards in September 2021 followed. And then, towards the end of last year, Dominique received a message on Instagram, asking her to be a contestant on an upcoming TV show.
She said: "Just as I was about to apply, they said the deadline’s next week, and by the way, Jamie Oliver’s hosting. So, I thought, right, I’ll get my skates on.”
Rather than winning a trophy or simply gaining esteem, the winner of The Great Cookbook Challenge will be awarded with a publishing deal with Michael Joseph Penguin. As well as Jamie Oliver, it publishes books by culinary experts including Nadiya Hussein, Nigella Lawson and Amelia Freer, a list of clients Dominique says is “very impressive”.
The Great Cookbook Challenge focuses not only on the skill involved in the food but, just as importantly, how easy it will be to translate it to a wider audience.
“It’s not just about the cooking," Dominique said. “It is about the cooking, but for example if I’d have gone on MasterChef, I wouldn’t have gotten past the first round, because they’re wanting you to be more chef-y. It’s more about cooking the most immaculate plate of food. Whereas here, they’re looking for you to create a plate of food that could be replicated. It’s about the idea.
“The whole concept for my book is using Asian ingredients to create really simple, delicious food. It’s about showing people it’s not that scary.”
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While the experience has been “quite surreal”, Dominique added that being able to glean information from Jamie Oliver on the show has been invaluable.
She said: “Because I’ve grown up with him in a way, I’ve been with him from the very first show, it was quite surreal meeting him.
“He’s an amazing entrepreneur, and from an entrepreneur's point of view, I found it very, very inspiring. Because he’s the ultimate entrepreneur as far as I’m concerned. If I could have a fraction of the career he’s had, I’d be very, very happy.”
Dominique believes the show has also helped her focus on The Woolf’s Kitchen a little more, and work out what she enjoys most. In particular, it has reminded her how much she loves food writing, saying: “For me, the best part of the business is coming up with the recipes. That’s where I thrive.
“It’s definitely given me the hunger to carry on and do more of that.”
Part of that, she concedes, will involve getting someone else in to get the “day-to-day side of things”.
“When you run a business, you don’t realise”, she said. “You think I’ve got a great idea for food, but that’s not the day-to-day. The day-to-day is not about being creative in the kitchen, it’s about selling and logistics.”
While her business has grown from a few sauces into having products listed in Selfridges, the process behind the cooking has not changed for Dominique. Her love of Asian flavours and desire to continue experimenting herself, in her own kitchen, still underpins what makes the company what it is.
The essentiality of her personality and character came to the fore, she said, when thinking about her USP after being asked the question on the show.
“I was thinking about that with my business. What is my USP? And my USP is me. I know it sounds strange, but these are my recipes created in my kitchen, The Woolf’s Kitchen. It all stems from me.”
The next episode of The Great Cookbook Challenge is on March 7, 8pm, on Channel 4.