When the Huffington Post asked me, a 37-year-old married father of two, if I wanted to enter a cooking competition to win a trip to Hong Kong with a 25-year-old girl I'd never met, it was a real no-brainer. I'm confident that in no way would my wife go ballistic if I jogged off to the other side of the world leaving her with two pre-school kids to look after, so I signed up on the spot.
As a result I've been spending some lovely days cooking Chinese food in Brixton Market for Amoy's Feasts on the Street competition. Here's what I've learnt about China, cooking, and other stuff:
It's nearly the Chinese year of the Goat. I like The Chinese year of the Ox most, because it sounds like Chinese year of the Knox. My favourite thing about the Chinese zodiac is the variety in animal quality. One year tiger, the next year rabbit. Also they just chuck dragon in there every twelve years and hope nobody will notice. Much better than our rubbish non-animal based years. If 2015 became the British year of the Unicorn, it would give everyone a boost in a time of financial austerity and increasing global instability.
You should peel ginger with a spoon. I learnt this from my teammate, Victoria Ferran. Gingers (as I believe the plural is) are too knobbly to efficiently peel with a peeler, so top chefs like me, Victoria and Gordon Ramsay (probably) use a spoon.
It's really hard to pick a name for a Chinese food stall that doesn't sound either racist or like you're a contestant on The Apprentice. Try it.
Prawns take about five seconds to cook, yet we always buy them pre-cooked. Why? It's only saving us seconds. It doesn't seem worth it. Plus there is something awesome about ripping something's head off, pealing off it's shell and deveining it. It's wonderfully brutal.
Most people in their thirties have no idea what a YouTuber is or does. One of our rival teams was made up of lovely young YouTubers Jack Dean and Helen Anderson. I asked around and hardly any of my friends could name a YouTuber (a couple had heard of Zoella or PewDiePie), but they're huge amongst the youth of today. After I met Jack and Helen I thought I might become a YouTuber for about half an hour, but I decided to go for a sleep and when I woke up I'd forgotten about my plan. It's a bit like when I saw 8 Mile and decided that I definitely, one hundred percent, totally was going to start rap battling with my friends. But then I went for a sleep and forgot.
I would make an appalling professional chef. Don't get me wrong, I love cooking and have a flair for certain dishes (risottos, full English breakfasts and Sunday roasts) but it's all the non-cooking bits. I'm awful at haggling, truly awful. How much is that garlic? Eight pounds? Okay. We'd be bankrupt in a week.
Plus the hours are horrific. Up early in the morning to go to the market, then hard work cooking lunch in a boiling hot kitchen until everyone has eaten and you've cleaned up. Repeat for dinner. Repeat tomorrow. And the next day. I get annoyed if I have to work more than three hours a day, so I'm not sure it's the career for me.
Despite my misgivings, if I was offered the choice between a 12 hour long haul flight with no children asking me to play 'flying magical unicorns', or world peace and eternal life, I'd be packing my bag and ironing my passport. For that reason I'm going to put a superhuman effort into become Britain's greatest Chinese chef before the Feasts on the Street final. After I've had a sleep.