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Paul Stafford: 'I think it falls to all of us to cook things properly, and not throw them away'

PUBLISHED: 16:22 24 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:36 24 July 2019

Paul Stafford with his 'Three Mackerel' painting of food bought on its sell-by date at Sainsbury's. Picture: Paul Stafford.

Paul Stafford with his 'Three Mackerel' painting of food bought on its sell-by date at Sainsbury's. Picture: Paul Stafford.

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"Nothing will be wasted, all will be re-used, all food will be given away and all paintings will be on old boxes that have no value."

A Stafford painting on a strawberry box from Wimbledon. Picture: Paul Stafford.A Stafford painting on a strawberry box from Wimbledon. Picture: Paul Stafford.

Paul Stafford is discussing his upcoming event - The Art of Cooking - which sees this MasterChef semi-finalist unite his passions for food and art via a week-long exhibition at The Bomb Factory, in Archway.

Stafford first had the idea for The Art of Cooking earlier this year as the MasterChef cameras were rolling. While many of his fellow contestants were caught up in the pressures of performing in front of an audience of millions, he was revelling in the experience and appreciating the programme's no-nonsense approach to waste.

"In the first round (of the show) you're required to invent things quite quickly, from ingredients you're not aware of," he says.

"MasterChef have a huge focus on being eco-friendly. When you do a recipe you absolutely use everything up. It's very aware of the products it uses and for us as contestants, it's about not abusing that. It left a mark on me, and the exhibition itself is a response to what I experienced as a contestant."

Stafford appeared on this year's MasterChef UK, reaching the semi-finals. Picture: Paul Stafford.Stafford appeared on this year's MasterChef UK, reaching the semi-finals. Picture: Paul Stafford.

So how exactly will The Art of Cooking work? Opening on Thursday (July 25) from 6pm, Stafford will serve up MasterChef-inspired canapés washed down by his 'Figtini' cocktail, while a selection of his works are displayed in his co-existing painting exhibition.

On Friday and Saturday of this week - as well as Wednesday and Thursday of next - Stafford will cook up a variety of dishes which will be available for attendees and passers-by to take home in doggie bags at the end of the night. What's on the menu will depend entirely on the contents of Tesco's reduced section each day.

"I'll be sourcing all products that are on their sell-by date: if they didn't get bought, they would be thrown away," adds Stafford.

"I am going to make the event completely carbon-free. I will cook whatever I have been given and invent a dish, cooking live on a donated electric cooker right in the gallery space itself. The cooker will be donated to a local charity after the show."

Once Stafford has finished in the kitchen, he'll then paint the dishes he has created on huge cardboard boxes, that will in turn be hung in The Bomb Factory's gallery space. The 62-year-old - who was previously a course director at Kingston Art School - will once again be creating something from a neglected resource that would otherwise be tossed in the scrap heap.

Visitors are welcome to speak with Stafford while he's either cooking or painting, in turn discovering more about a man who came close to MasterChef glory and survived a plane crash back in 2008.

Stafford is keen to put together this bio-degradable, recycled event "because I think we all waste far too much."

"There were times when I had absolutely nothing. When I was 24, my Christmas lunch was half a lager and a packet of turkey-flavoured crisps. I know what it's like to have nothing, and I think it falls to all of us to cook things properly, and not throw them away.

"I suppose the one thing we can all give is our time - we've all got time. My life has been driven by teaching people to do things. You suddenly see a light go on in their eyes; I've seen students do amazing things in the professional world."

The Art of Cooking runs from July 25 until August 1 at The Bomb Factory, N1 4AJ. More information here.



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