Joe Woodhouse is a celebrated chef, cookbook author, and renowned food photographer with a unique talent for turning everyday vegetables into culinary masterpieces. Known for his approachable style and vibrant dishes, his recipes, found in his books Your Daily Veg and More Daily Veg, as well as The Guardian and other publications, are regularly passed around the Far Afield office. We met Joe in London, at the charming family home he shares with his wife, acclaimed chef Olia Hercules, and their two young sons, Sasha and Wilfred. The house, bathed in natural light and adorned with lush plants, exudes a warm and inviting atmosphere. Despite having had little sleep the previous night (his wife and son were unwell), Joe greeted us with genuine warmth, his fatigue evident but his hospitality unwavering. 

More than just a cooking space, their kitchen is a bustling hub of activity and a sanctuary of productivity. "It's a functional space—we use it for events and filming, so many people come through, so many things get spilt or whatever," Joe explains. Despite the constant flow of people and activities, the kitchen maintains a serene and welcoming atmosphere. "For shoots here, people are like ‘It’s so calm, this is so fun,’ and it’s like ‘yeah, that’s the idea,’" Joe says. “We work in food, you have long hours, it can be stressful for different reasons, so let’s make it as much fun as possible. At the end of the shoot last week, we put on some Spice Girls." 

This ethos of blending work with enjoyment creates a unique environment where creativity flourishes. The interactive nature of their home is one of its most endearing qualities. "That’s the nice thing about here – there's always something going on, people coming through, friends staying, barbecues, pizza parties," Joe notes. The kitchen, opening onto a tranquil garden, embodies the perfect balance between a professional workspace and a family home. Outside, the garden features a pizza oven and an open fire. “With open fire cooking – you can’t be too precious with it, it’s a nice contrast to a restaurant kitchen where everything has to be perfect. The beauty is in embracing unpredictability.”  Joe's home is a dynamic and welcoming haven where ideas simmer, friendships are nurtured, and delicious meals are shared, making it a truly special setting for all who visit.

Joe’s eclectic collection of glassware, bistro plates, antique enamelware, and Pyrex, all gathered from flea markets and boot sales across the UK and France, decorate the space. Each piece tells its own story, contributing to the kitchen's unique charm. "I always tell my wife that I'm collecting the things I like, to give my hoarding some legitimacy," Joe states with a grin. "They're great for props, but I also love using them day-to-day." His collections extend beyond kitchenware. "I have lots of knives from lots of different people... This bread knife is just awesome, it just takes down a sourdough loaf – it's perfect." These items aren't just for display—they're integral to their daily lives, weaving a narrative through their everyday use.  

Joe's wardrobe reflects his love for old French and American workwear, embodying a philosophy of buying better and buying less. "I go for more rugged and simple stuff while I work," he explains. "Lots of denim, French workwear, heavy twills—hardwearing stuff that’s supposed to be worn." Joe's approach to clothing mirrors his approach to food—practical and sustainable—favouring durable fabrics that age gracefully with wear and tear. "Buy nicer things and don’t throw them away – repair stuff," he notes. "This throwaway society is non-sustainable. But it’s the same with food; we’ve been fed this whole industrialised model which is just non-sustainable." Joe's clothing philosophy extends beyond aesthetics, he aims to give life to each piece and allow it to evolve with use, "You have to give it life, and then it can become a gardening shirt or whatever—create a story with the clothes."  

In the kitchen, Joe's style remains practical, he appreciates the simplicity of a uniform-like approach to dressing, an idea inspired by Jeff Goldblum's character in The Fly. "I quite like the idea... where he has the same outfit—like a uniform. So, you don't have to think about it in the morning." He regularly wears darker colours and sturdy fabrics like twills that can handle stains, "I'm quite flamboyant in the kitchen, as my wife says, so oil is my nemesis," he admits. He finds beauty in the rugged wear of his garments, "The more beat up they are, the better they look, the more they have to say."  

Joe's culinary philosophy is deeply intertwined with his vegetarianism, a lifestyle he's embraced since childhood. His dishes boldly highlight the natural flavours and textures of vegetables, eschewing any attempt to mask their essence. Reflecting on his approach, Joe remarks, “I used to really enjoy plating and fine dining, where you're thinking about the plate. With vegetarian food, it's a bit harder because you don't have a big piece of protein. You have to put more thought into presentation—you can't just put out a big brown bowl of lentils.” Yet, Joe finds inspiration in simplicity and authenticity, preferring meals that naturally lend themselves to being vegetarian, "Picking up things along the way, nice meals that happened to be vegetarian, I’m more into that," he muses.  

For Joe, the cornerstone of his culinary creations lies in the quality of ingredients, sourced seasonally and locally. His commitment to using fresh, locally sourced produce not only ensures superior flavours but also supports sustainable agricultural practices. "The best thing is, you make a simple beetroot salad and people say, 'Oh wow, this tastes amazing.' They ask, 'What did you do?' And the truth is, I didn't do much. I boiled the beetroot, splashed a bit of vinegar on it, and maybe added a herb. Eighty percent of the work is done by the farmer. That's why I love this kind of food. Just buy nice stuff or the best you can, treat it delicately, don’t do too much to it, and it speaks for itself." Joe's philosophy extends to a concept he calls being ‘realistically healthy.’ "It’s about eating proper food with nothing too processed," he explains. "I encourage people to make things on their own and not get too hung up on health trends. Eat what you feel like, listen to your body. I just want to show vegetables in an interesting way." 

Raised in a farming family, Joe's vegetarian lifestyle initially raised eyebrows, "it wasn’t so well received. But meat doesn’t bother me, really – people find it weird but I'd rather someone ate well-sourced well-cooked meat than shitty stuff. But it should be a treat." Having grown up around food, he began cooking for himself at the age of 10, he explains "I didn’t want my mum to have to make another meal for me when I went vegetarian, so I started cooking quite young – but I was always around food.”  

In More Daily Veg, Woodhouse continues his culinary exploration into vegetarian cuisine, following the acclaim of his debut book: Your Daily Veg. With accolades from renowned chefs like Nigella Lawson and Anna Jones, his recipes resonate with readers seeking practical yet flavourful dishes. "It’s a continuation of the first book," Joe affirms, noting the demand for accessible recipes and everyday advice. His philosophy emphasises flexibility, encouraging readers to interpret recipes as templates ripe for personalisation. "You don’t have to be wedded to this as a recipe," he explains, advocating for experimentation with ingredients and techniques. 

 

Central to Joe's approach is a dedication to home cooks, prioritising simplicity and accessibility. "So, the idea with the cookbooks was to have pretty no-nonsense recipes, few ingredients, based around different veg. It's the way that I cook, in that kind of 'ready steady cook' what's in the fridge - I've got a little bit of this; I've got a little bit of that. Figuring out how to put them together and get a plate of food on the table that's tasty without taking too much time without too much effort," Joe shares. This realistic approach to cooking is about making food as simple as possible, but with some technique or process that is useful and can be applied in other contexts. Joe emphasises that these books are for use and for inspiration, highlighting the importance of encouraging culinary exploration. With a belief that recipes should reflect personal stories and memories, Joe infuses his dishes with authenticity and depth. "You need to live a bit to collect recipes. You’re drawing on memories, having stories behind dishes—that really adds to it,"

As we settled into our conversation, Joe effortlessly moved around the kitchen, his background in photography evident in every movement—he is innately aware of what works well on camera, each process—chopping, drizzling, sprinkling—meticulously crafted. With a smile, he presented three dishes, each from his new book, "they all have stories," he explained. A chopped veg salad, appeared deceptively simple. "Some of these things, you think it’s a bit funny to put in a cookbook – it's just chopping," Joe reflected. "But often that’s what people want – it’s simple, easy, and a fresh take on ingredients. Whatever crunchy veg you’ve got, chop it up roughly – it's customisable and refreshing, perfect for a quick bite." Next, a Potato-topped Focaccia, reminiscent of chip butties from Joe's childhood in Scarborough, and a Celeriac Remoulade, inspired by his travels around France. Joe noted, "People always ask about Celeriac, it’s one of those vegetables that come in the veg box that people just aren’t used to - chard’s a big one too." Each dish was a story in itself, offering a glimpse into Joe's culinary journey and the diverse flavours that shaped his cooking – and each was, of course, crazy delicious. 

Joe is a man of many projects, constantly immersing himself in new endeavours and eagerly delving into different fields of interest. Inspired by his son Wilfred's love for pizza, he's currently on a deep dive into the intricate world of dough-making. With enthusiasm, he shares his expertise, discussing the subtleties of using various preferments and flours and how they impact the final product. "You just think 'Oh, it’s pizza,' but there’s so much that goes into that," Joe reflects. "So many years of experimenting with different preferments and flours and stuff. And you have to relearn it every year depending on the crop, and you’ve got to respond to it. People think because it’s a street food people don’t think of it as an art form, but there’s so much to it." 

His passion for fermentation extends beyond pizza dough to sour beers and natural wines, which he brews downstairs, "Anything that’s not quite right I can use to make vinegar, if you cost it out it’s probably the most expensive vinegar in the world,” he laughs. Over lunch, Joe poured us glasses of his home-brewed beer, each bottle adorned with a label drawn by Olia and bearing the name Wolf Wood, a play on his son’s name. As we sipped, he shared the story behind the brew: “The beer thing kept me sane during lockdown. Our son was born in January, and we went into lockdown in March, so while he was asleep, I was reading about beer-making.” “There’s something nice, in this day and age, about waiting," Joe muses, "It takes 3 years to make that, which is mad for a lot of people to think about."  

Despite Wolf Wood being in its infancy (Joe is yet to make his beers commercially available), Joe sees a future in brewing spontaneously fermented beers as a side project and plans to move the business out to France. "We’ve got a house we’re doing up in France, that we are planning to do food courses and retreats at" he shares, "You know it is appealing to change the pace of life, and keep busy with a variety of jobs, so we’re thinking about various things." With the hustle and bustle of London in their rearview, Joe envisions a quieter, more serene lifestyle for his family. "The idea with France is that we can go there with the kids, teach some courses and get out of London into the countryside – do some walks," he

Their dream of spending more time in France isn’t just about a change of scenery; it's also about creating opportunities for Wilfred, who was diagnosed with Fragile X. "Our son got diagnosed with Fragile X, I don’t know how independent he’ll be, so hopefully he’ll be able to work with me in France – doing photography, brewing – just being involved, doing it together," Joe shares. In France, they see the potential for phasing in a new chapter—a place where they can continue to pursue their passions while embracing a slower pace of life, and of course there will be plenty of pizza and beer - “We’re going to do Pizza and Beer in France and make ice cream with the spent grain – re-infused it with the milk to make a malt ice-cream," he explains. "I want to do a tasting room or a little bar for the hamlet, just open for like 3 hours on a Friday and Saturday and almost do free pizza – just as a community thing, and to get the word out about Brewery stuff and Food stuff." 

Joe’s culinary talents, his skills in photography, and his dedication as a father paint a picture of a man who excels in everything he sets his mind to. Whether he's crafting the perfect pizza, brewing sour beers, or expanding his ‘collections’ at French flea markets, Joe's passion and meticulous attention to detail shine through in every endeavour. His home is more than just a residence; it's a vibrant, creative space infused with a sense of community. Every corner reflects his and Olia's love for their craft and their commitment to sharing it with others. Joe's dedication to his work, family, and community inspires us, and we eagerly anticipate the next chapter of his journey. 

A massive thank you to Joe Woodhouse for inviting us into his home. You can find him on Instagram here, and buy his newest cookbook, More Daily Veg, in your local book shop.

Photography by Charlie Gardiner 
Videography by Adam Prosser 

May 17, 2024 — Gwilym Evans