Kevin Hacking

My Life in Food with Kevin Hacking, Oyster & Olive

Oyster & Olive is a bespoke private dining chef service operating in the North East. We sit down to have a conversation with the chef, Kevin Hacking, about all things food…

Kevin currently lives in Darlington and has two children who also share his passion for cooking. Made redundant during COVID-19 pandemic, Kevin saw that as a stepping stone towards something greater. That is when he set out to build his own private dining business – Oyster & Olive.

As we talk childhood meals and inspiration, Kevins shares that he is at his happiest when in the kitchen, however on a rare occasion he is not cooking away, he loves to flip through pages of recipe books, scouting for new ideas.

Kevin Hacking

What’s a meal that takes you back to childhood?

Mum’s baking days, she was a traditional home cook and as a child, I always remember those days. She would bake pies, cakes and biscuits and would always find time to make a big pan of slowly cooked meat and potatoes for dinner with lots of flavours for that night.

We would get in from school and devour the cakes and biscuits like a plague of locusts! I remember her saying: “This was supposed to last us” as she had intended to put it all away in the freezer for meals later in the month. 

Mum’s cooking was delicious, something I’m sure we can all relate to. I feel like ready meals and takeaways have taken away the joy of our mum’s cooking.

What’s the food that brings you the greatest joy?

Cheese! I adore cheese but not the processed type. My favourite cheese is Blue and of course, it must be with a great glass of wine and good company. It’s my go-to after a long day. Many great ideas have been born over some cheese and biscuits.

What’s the food that represents where you come from?

I’m a Lancashire lad, so we eat hearty meals such as stews and roasts, but a traditional Sunday Lunch with all types of potatoes and vegetables with a real gravy to mop all the last bits is perfect for me. It has to come with some of those pudding things from over the border in Yorkshire.

What’s your most memorable meal?

My most memorable meal was Raby Hunt’s Final Menu. When I heard it was closing down, I knew I couldn’t miss it. I managed to book one of the last tables. However, my wife has a fish allergy, so there were a few dishes she couldn’t eat. I happily ate her share from the 15-course menu.

Four courses in, we were still being served fish, and my wife mentioned a detour to McDonald’s on the way home! Despite this, the meal’s incredible flavours and theatrical presentation made it unforgettable.

What’s your favourite meal of the day and why?

It has to be dinner time as I love a meal at the table with the family. We get to spend some quality time together with a cheeky glass of wine.

Kevin Hacking

What’s the best cook you know?

The best cook I know is my mum. She taught me that it takes patience, passion, and effort to prepare a truly special meal. Watching her cook, I learned that the more time and care you invest in a dish, the more people can taste and appreciate the love that goes into it.

Her cooking inspired me, and I often think of her techniques and dedication when I prepare my own dishes. Seeing the joy on my customers’ faces as they enjoy my food reminds me of the happiness my mum’s meals always brought to our family.

What’s the food you turn to when you need some comfort?

You cannot beat a nice homemade pie with some mashed potato and vegetables. The pie has to be made with shortcrust pastry and a full pie, not a pie with a lid! You don’t get much better comfort than that.

What’s the food you always need in your fridge?

Well, we have a big fridge and being a private chef there are always a lot of ingredients around. But the basis of what is always in the fridge are Chorizo, Cream, Crème Fraiche, Garlic, Chillies, Parmesan, and fresh eggs from our flock of chickens. This always forms the basis of our favourite meal – a pasta dish.

What’s the food you could never give up?

Chocolate and wine!

What does food mean to you?

Food is essential for life, but to me, it’s more than sustenance; it’s a passion. I believe in eating to enjoy and appreciate good food. It should be savoured, respected, and cooked with love, as that makes it taste even better.