He cooks, he plays, he’s an Internet star and he’s three
Pot and Pan are engaged in mortal combat. As they fly across the room, roaring at each other, the high pitched voice of a three-year-old commentator cuts in to explain what is happening. This is not an episode of Kitchen Nightmares but morning playtime involving an intense battle between two menacing five-inch-high plastic giants and their owner, Archie Coffer, part-time toddler, part-time sous-chef to his daddy, Nick. The giants’ names are in no way accidental: this kid has food on the brain.
Eighteen months ago, Nick Coffer, 38, had lost his job and was a stay-at-home dad, spending some quality time with Archie, when he started making and uploading videos of the two of them cooking together. The video-recipe blog, mydaddycooks.com, went from 700-odd daily hits to tens of thousands per month, which instigated a bidding war between 10 publishers. The result was a new book, My Daddy Cooks: 100 Fresh New Recipes for the Whole Family, which is currently enjoying five-star reviews on Amazon.
When I meet Archie and Nick (and, later, his wife Jo and their four-month-old daughter, Matilda) at their home in Bushey, Archie has just finished making a play about Mr Potato Head and, that done, is keen to get cracking on the next activity: getting me to eat his freshly-made tiffin cake.
“Can we get Dippctoria (as he calls me) to try tiffin? She has to guess the secret ingredient, Daddy…” he asks, eyes wide with worry about the possibility that I might leave without even trying one. I do, of course, discovering that the secret ingredient is raisins and that it’s extremely tasty.
In this household Archie has a huge say in what the whole family will be eating each day, be it pancakes, hotpots, paella or grilled fish; he and Nick have done three live cookery demonstrations, including last month’s Real Food Show where Archie tipped the contents of his father’s garlic bowl into his own small pot. “I have to forget about perfection. Things go horribly wrong when Archie is around,” admits Nick
The book, which Archie recently showed to his friends at playschool, is packed with recipes you can imagine trying with or without kids in tow and Nick makes it clear that they are not necessarily meant for children. “I try to always think of what people might want. It’s important to stay in touch with the people reading the blog as no one will use the book otherwise,” he tells me.
Nick is insistent that, far from being a pushy parent, the focus is all on fun and that “the moment it becomes attention-seeking or like a show, we’re done with it. This is about letting him find out what he likes.” Archie’s genuine passion for food was expressed by Michelin-starred chef , who saw the twosome cooking at Harvest at Jimmy’s and told Nick, “I can see the focus in his eyes — he has a real touch with food.” Recently, when they were knocking up a quick pasta and sauce dish, Archie allegedly grimaced and squeaked, “Dad, red peppers just don’t go with pasta, do they?”
And that’s from the small man who can juggle cracking — and breaking — eggs, rolling pastry, mixing ingredients and fighting giant battles without even losing his smile.