Former construction worker Barry Lewis cooks tortillas inside his underwear while jogging. He has tried his hand at cooking inside his car and in the confines of a hotel room. He will even bake a cake — using a cement mixer.
Three years ago, Lewis, a father of two, could hardly poach an egg, let alone whip up a meal in a kitchen.
“I had a fear of coming into this kitchen,” he said, gesturing to the modest room. “I wouldn’t even touch that oven. I used to be so scared of it.”
But all of that changed, he said, when he watched British celebrity Jamie Oliver cooking a meal on his show.
“So I thought I would give it a go,” Lewis said. “Picked up a camcorder and decided to put videos on the Internet.”
More than 450 recipes (and counting) later, documenting each step of his journey with wacky, creative and downright honest YouTube videos, Lewis has turned his fear into a passion.
Along the way, he contacted Oliver — whom Lewis bears an uncanny resemblance to — over Twitter.
“I made a homemade mac and cheese,” Lewis said. “He saw it and liked it, and I had a big Afro and dressed up in ‘Pulp Fiction’ theme.”
Oliver took Lewis under his wing, and behold, the birth of “My Virgin Kitchen,” a website where Lewis posts his recipes, nutty videos and blog. Some of his favorite video moments to date include when he dressed up as someone else he resembles, the late Steve Irwin, also known as the Crocodile Hunter, and wrestled an inflatable crocodile in his backyard, pretending it was a cod.
“I made out the cod was a crocodile,” he said. “I remember my neighbors looking out that window … [and] I came in as if I had caught the croc in my garden, and then I cooked a nice cod dinner.”
Lewis is slowly gaining exposure, thanks to Oliver’s YouTube channel. With all this cooking and Internet notoriety, Lewis even has fans around the globe sending him their own native recipes for him to try out. He has already won over his young daughters, who appear regularly in his videos and always seem eager to lend a helping hand.
“The aim is to carry on inspiring people of all ages all over the world with the videos,” he said.
Try Barry Lewis’ Recipe for Pasta Carbonara
500 grams (about one pound) of chicken, chopped into chunks
2 small bacon loins
1 garlic clove
2 spring onions
300 milliliters (about 10 ounces) single cream (close U.S. substitute: Half and half)
8 0unces of grated Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top.
1. Cook chicken on its own in the pan for 4 to 5 minutes until white all over
2. Add bacon, spring onions and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes
3. Pour in the cream and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, before adding in the cheese
4. Whisk eggs and season with pepper in a bowl
5. Pour the egg mixture in with the chicken and stir continually
6. Add your pasta and toss through to coat with the other ingredients
7. Serve in a bowl piping hot, scatter on Parmesan and season with ground black pepper to your liking
It’s important not to leave the egg in too long as it can turn into an omelet. You can prevent this happening by using 200 milliliters (roughly 6 ounces) milk mixed with 100 milliliters (roughly 3 ounces) water, or simply take the pan off the heat when adding the egg.
Sprinkling on some chopped herbs, more seasonings during simmering and when serving can really adjust the flavor. Goes well with some toasted bread drizzled in olive oil.