Food & Drink

First Dates maitre d’ Fred Sirieix: Air fryers have brought about a ‘revolution’ in cooking

The French presenter and foodie talks about the dishes he likes to cook in his air fryer.

Fred Sirieix is a recent air fryer convert
Fred Sirieix is a recent air fryer convert

Fred Sirieix says air fryers have ushered in a cooking “revolution”.

The First Dates maître d’ is fairly new to air fryer cooking – he first started using the gadget only a few months ago – but safe to say he’s a complete convert.

“The air fryer, for me, is a revolution,” he says. “I’m talking to you as a Frenchman who’s been brought up in a very traditional household, where my mum would cook a three-course meal every single day for lunch and dinner, and I’ve been to catering college.”

For Sirieix, who has lived in the UK for over three decades, air fryers aren’t just another new gadget to be used once, then popped into the back of your cupboard to gather dust.

Instead, he compares them to the new inventions of the 1960s. “My mum is a woman of the Sixties, and she’s always telling me about the Sixties and how her life changed when the washing machine appeared, when the dryer appeared, when the dishwasher appeared,” he recounts.

“She’s very traditional, but she embraced that kind of modernism of the kitchen. She keeps talking about it now, and she’s 77. I think with the air fryer, I’m experiencing my own change in the kitchen, which I haven’t seen anything like since I [started] cooking.”

So why has cooking with the air fryer captured Sirieix’s attention quite so much?

“The beauty about the air fryer is you can cook fresh, seasonal produce, and you can do it in a very relaxed way,” he says – really emphasising how it helps “anybody cook fresh produce”.

“I think it’s particularly important nowadays, you want to eat healthier, you want to be sustainable – there is also a cost-of-living crisis. But when you have equipment like this, you can buy fresh produce – which doesn’t cost the Earth – you can buy some potatoes, you can buy some chicken and you can create a delicious recipe.”

And Sirieix, 52, might have gone to catering college, but he appreciates how easy it is to whip something up in the air fryer – it’s just about grabbing the ingredients, “Washing them and cutting them and you stack them in the air fryer – and it’s done”. He would teach his teenage son, Lucien – if he could get him off the PlayStation, he jokes.

The TV personality uses a Ninja model that has two baskets stacked on top of each other, helping him create dishes from his childhood.

“Yesterday, for example, I was cooking my grandmother’s potatoes. My grandmother unfortunately passed away about 10 years ago, but she did these beautiful potatoes when I was a kid – small potatoes cut very thinly, a touch of oil, a bit of salt and pepper, some herbs. I did exactly the same potatoes – you’ve got to cut them very thin – and then on top I stacked some chicken.

(John Nguyen/PA)

“The chicken was very simple: a bit of paprika, a lot of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and mixed herbs, and you cook it – and because of the way it’s cooking, the fat is melting on top of the potato and adds extra flavour. Because you don’t put a lot of oil in the potatoes in the first place, you end up with these really lovely, moreish potatoes which are soft inside, but really crispy on the outside.

“I was eating them yesterday, and it was just like being at my grandma’s back in the day.”

If you are new to an air fryer, Sirieix urges you to do a bit of “trial and error”.

“You need to get used to it,” he says. “But I think you just follow the same principle of what you would normally do [when cooking].

“The best thing you can do is mix and match things” – trying different mains and side dishes together, while focusing on simple ingredients and recipes, without trying to overcomplicate anything. “Basically let the air fryer do all the work for you,” he adds.

Ultimately, mastering the air fryer will give you meals “as good as restaurant food”, Sirieix suggests.

While some professional chefs might have a bit of snobbery around air fryers, the tides could soon be changing. Sirieix even hints that restaurant kitchens might not be “too far off” using air fryers during service.

“One of the reasons why is because of the consistency you get in an air fryer… It’s very difficult to get it wrong,” he notes.

“It’s also very difficult to find chefs nowadays, because of the issue we have with labour. In restaurants especially, there’s a chronic staff shortage, which is huge. But with equipment like that, as long as you know what you’re doing, you’ve got a recipe, it’s very easy to show people what to do.

While restaurants might need bigger bits of kit – or perhaps they only use them for certain elements of service – Sirieix adds: “I think it’s only a matter of time, and possibly some people have already done it.”

Fred Sirieix has collaborated with Ninja to launch the Double Stacked Air Fryer pop-up restaurant opening this month. Keep an eye out on Eventbrite for tickets.