Cooking has not always been the first passion of East Finchley’s Rachel Davies.

It was during a year volunteering in Zambia that the mother-of-one first discovered her love for all-things-cookery.

“I had no idea how to cook at all,” admits the chef, who is taking part in a game show-style contest at Gefiltefest Jewish Food Festival later this month.

“I thought I wanted to get into international development and couldn’t cook at all. I had to start there and I found that I loved it.”

Rachel, who now runs Rachel’s Kitchen cookery school, started baking her own bread, making granita from the lemons in her garden in Zambia and learning as much as she could through any recipes she could lay her hands on.

And her love of local produce has stayed with her from her time in the African country, where she could only cook with whatever was grown nearby as the villge she was staying in had no supermarket.

When she returned to England, Rachel waited a year before pursuing her new-found dream of becoming a chef.

The former West Hampstead resident trained at Le Cordon Bleu, graduating in cuisine and pâtisserie, before going on to work with respected chefs at Galvin Bistro de Luxe in Baker Street and Lanka Patisserie in Primrose Hill.

But in 2010 she decided it was time turn her hand to teaching others and opened Rachel’s Kitchen based in East Finchley.

“I like sharing experiences through food basically and creating these experiences teaching people and just the whole process is really food fun,” explains Rachel, who enjoys cooking different dishes from all over the world.

She continues: “I feel like people come together over food and they learn together and they eat a meal together, and people meet each other though my classes – I feel like there are ripples that come from it.”

Now the award-winning cook is gearing up for Gefiltefest, where she will battle it out against fellow foodie Alan Rosenthal, who runs Stewed! one-pot meals business.

A familiar face at the festival, this year Rachel is excited to appear on the line-up alongside respected chef Claudia Roden and Daniel Young of the popular Young and Foodish blog.

“It is a great food festival, there are some amazing people who are involved,” says Rachel, who grew up in a Jewish family, surrounded by traditional cookery.

She adds: “I do not specialise in Jewish cookery at all but I think there is such a wealth of different traditions, it is really exciting.”

Gefiltefest, Finchley Road, Hampstead, Sunday, June 28, from 10.30am. Details: 020 7433 8988,