28.11.14

INTERVIEW with MICHEL ROUX JR

It's not every day you receive an email asking if you'd like to send some interview questions through for Michel Roux Jr, but that's exactly what happened last Friday, much to my surprise and excitement. I love the Rouxs as chefs and always have done. I watch little live TV - only Attenborough, football and cooking shows - but have always loved what I've seen of Michel Roux Jr on shows such as Masterchef and Food and Drink, which I have on catch up in the background on Saturday mornings when I'm cooking for my pop ups. I was asked to provide questions for this interview as Michel is fundraising for a really great charity that he is a patron of, VICTA - a charity that fundraises to provide support and activities for visually impaired and blind children - by trading from an initial budget of £2,500 with City Index and trying to make as much money as possible - as stressful as a day in the kitchen I'm sure, just not half as tasty! Michel is a long term supporter of VICTA and has run several marathons for the charity too. I've enjoyed reading Michel's answers to my questions so much, and I hope you do too - he really seems even lovelier than I already thought he was:

1. Who has inspired you the most in your career? 
My first boss when I was an apprentice pastry chef, he was a man that led by example and rarely shouted. He was the first person in, in the morning and the last one out at night. 

2. What is the first thing you remember cooking? 
The first thing I remember cooking wasn’t actually cooking it was making ice cream as a child. My father had made the custard and I must have been about six and had to churn it by hand as we didn’t have an electric machine. It was churned on ice and was a very hard job. I was rewarded with a scoop of freshly made ice cream. 

3. What is your favourite restaurant in London? 
My favourite local restaurant is The Dairy in South London. I think it would be wonderful if every local restaurant was like the dairy. It’s affordable, run by a husband and wife team, and has a real homely feel. It ticks all the boxes of what I look for in a restaurant. 

4. What is your can’t live without kitchen gadget?
At the moment this would be a pressure cooker, I think they’re back in fashion now, when you say pressure cooker you usually think of your granny or old cabbage but these days they really are state of the art. 

5. What are your top three can’t live without ingredients? 
These would have to be venison, truffles and chocolate. 

6. What is your newest ingredient discovery? 
A forgotten vegetable, cardoons. 

7. What is your worst food intolerance to cook for? 
Working in a restaurant you have to cook for lots of different intolerances, but the one I have the most sympathy for has to be gluten, as I really couldn’t give up bread, pasta or any wheat products. 

8. Why did you choose to fundraise for VICTA today? 
Visually Impaired Children Taking Action - I’ve run marathons for VICTA for 16-18 years now. It’s about taking blind or partially sighted children out-and-about and getting them involved in sporting activities. It’s a small charity and I believe the smaller the charity the more of the money actually goes to the cause. I’ve had over four operations on my eyes myself and they really do deserve a little bit of help.
(I'm completely with Michel here with regards donating to smaller charities as I also believe that more money gets to those who need it this way) 

9. What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to start a career as a Chef? 
The advice I would give is for someone in a job or apprenticeship to take notes - not necessarily recipes but just little notes as you go along, in the form of a little diary. I still look back at my notes I made when I was apprentice and it really is an inspiration to look back and to learn.
(This is such a nice answer from Michel. So many chefs answer this question with "don't become a chef" which is really unhelpful for those who've already decided that they do want to be a chef!) 

Such interesting answers! The first thing I did when I read them was look up cardoons - it's a vegetable known as the artichoke thistle, and both the stalks and leaves can be eaten, and have an artichoke flavour to them - something to consider for my pop up menus!

There was one question on my list I'd sent through that Will didn't have time to ask for me, which was what Michel thought of supper clubs, and would he like to come to mine one day?! So if you're reading this Michel, why don't you come and try it out?!?
 
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21.11.14

L'ETO, BROMPTON ROAD

I got hit with the flu last week, and after sloping off early from work on Tuesday for my bed, I realised that I definitely wasn't going to be able to make the launch party of the newest branch of L'Eto later that evening. I was gutted to miss it, as I've tried their cakes before and they are seriously good, so was thrilled to find out that they wanted me to go in my own time to try out their full dinner menu. I chose last Sunday evening and took the boy along with me for a lovely dinner on a not so lovely evening.

We arrived wet and windswept and hungry for some food, and were greeted into a dining room that felt like someone's luxury drawing room of their home, rather than a formal restaurant setting. The leather panelled walls, gorgeous art on the walls and arm chairs mean that the restaurant is just as suited to those who want tea and cake as it is for those who want a 3 course meal, as we did. The front of the room has a buffet area, with piles of salads, cured meats and breads, while the front window is full of homemade cakes and delicatessens, as well as L'Eto branded jams and granolas.

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20.11.14

CHAMPAGNE TASTING w DEVAUX at NOTES

I've got some news about an exciting free event happening in London! On Tuesday 25th November and Tuesday 2nd December you can go to a free champagne tasting evening - how great is that!

I went to the first of these events this week and it was such fun and really informative. Tuesday evening's event was hosted by Notes who are a speciality coffee, food and wine bar, with 3 branches in London - Moorgate (where we went), Trafalgar Square (where the event on 25th November is being held) and Covent Garden (where the 2nd December event will be). All of the wine that Notes sell is provided by Liberty Wines, so they sent James along to teach us all about Champagne Devaux, one of the champagnes stocked and sold by Notes. All 3 tastings follow the same format and offer 4 types of Champagne Devaux to try.

The evening started with a bit of history about Champagne Devaux. This champagne house was founded in 1846, some 168 years ago and run by the Devaux family who sadly lost 3 of the men running the house at an early age. In fact by the late 1987 none of the Devaux family remained to run the house and it was sold to the Union Auboise, one of the biggest vineyard holders in the region. However, Champagne Devaux remains one of the top quality champagnes available. With all this talk of champagne it was definitely time to try some, and first up was the Devaux Grand Reserve NV, a 3 year old champagne (double the minimum required age for champagne). There are 3 grapes that can be used to make champagne - Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Devaux only use Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for their champagnes and the Grand Reserve uses a blend of 69% PN and 31% Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir grape that Devaux grows is one of the finest in the champagne region. This produces a very gentle champagne, that's extremely drinkable! I often find bubbly can be great for a glass, but that I wouldn't want to drink more than that, whereas I could the Devaux Grand Reserve all night!! It retails at around £25 a bottle, but tastes like it's worth a lot more.

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17.11.14

LE BUN AT THREE COMPASSES, DALSTON

Le Bun is a French American street food company who've recently taken up residency in the Three Compasses pub in Dalston, where they're serving some of the best burgers I've tasted this year. Sadly I missed their launch party a couple of weeks ago, but went along last Friday to see what all the fuss was about and to eat as much of their amazing food as I possibly could!

The Three Compasses is at the end of Ridley Road market, a five minute walk from Dalston Kingsland station. It's a lovely, cosy pub that serves really good beer - I was drinking a wheat beer called Wu Gang Chops The Tree that's made but local brewers Pressure Drop less than a mile away from the pub. It's made with foraged herbs (and wheat I guess) and tastes absolutely delicious. It had a real tang to it, and cut through the burgers, chips and mac n cheese so well.

 
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13.11.14

HONEYBEE CHOCOLATES

There are so many great things that come out of doing my own pop up restaurants, and going to other people's. I'm constantly inspired by food and always full of ideas of what to do next with it. But I think the best thing about the whole experience is the people I get to meet. I've had such a range of guests at my pop ups, from pop stars, to professional food writers, to bloggers, to food suppliers themselves. A couple of months ago one such food producer came to my pop up, and loved it so much that he booked the next one as soon as he got home. It was only when I got talking to him that I found he has just started a very special company - Shaun produces his own honey in Ealing, West London, and uses the honey to make his already much sought after HoneyBee chocolates.

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12.11.14

LE CHALET, SELFRIDGES

I was long overdue a catch up with Alex and realising we were both free on Bonfire Night, I booked the newly done up rooftop restaurant at Selfridges, Le Chalet.

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7.11.14

ANNA HANSEN of THE MODERN PANTRY - CHEF'S TABLE

I feel very lucky to get some really great invites to wonderful events via my blog. I have been to brand new restaurants, farms where I buy produce from, wine tastings with top sommeliers, and lots of other exciting trips that I've written up on here. I only accept invites to events which I would've gone to anyway, and ones that I think my readers will be interested in. One event that really stands out for me though is the dinner I went to last week. I was invited to go to a chef's table with Anna Hansen, who owns and runs The Modern Pantry, a restaurant that has been on my (long) list of must-visits for a while. The lovely people at Miele invited 5 of us to their Mayfair showroom for a very intimate dinner cooked by Anna.

I was first to arrive (never normally happens!) and was greeted with a glass of bubbles while I waited for the others, and had a sneaky look at all the amazingly high tech ovens in the showroom. The others arrived in no time at all, and once there, we were fed some incredible canap├ęs to start us off, beginning with soft boiled quail's egg, chia seed crostini, wasabi mayo and dukkah - I could've eaten a whole plate of these. The creamy egg and mayo went perfectly with the crunchy, seedy biscuit underneath. I would say these were my favourite of the nibbles, but I couldn't possibly choose between them, they were all so good!

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4.11.14

GRAND TOUR OF L'HEXAGONE WINES

There are a lot of things I like about wine. When I fancy an alcoholic drink, it's normally wine, or sparkling something that I go for. A crisp glass of cold white is a wonderful thing on a hot summer day, as is a deep bodied glass of red when the nights draw in and winter arrives (now!). Sparkling wine is perfect for celebrations, while there are many types of wine that match with all foods I can think of. And when you think you've found your perfect or favourite wine, you can spin round the globe and discover different versions of the same, and/or totally new wines. It seems that wine and my discovery of it is limitless - there's always a new wine to try or a different situation to try it in. So when asked to go on a virtual wine tour of France, up on the 31st floor of one of London's most Central buildings, I couldn't say no (apart from my vertigo, which was solved by a - staying in the middle of the room at all times, and b - sampling 10 different wines in the space of an hour!)

This wasn't an evening just to drink wine though, we were taken on a tour around France via wine, and talked through the perfect food to match each wine so I wanted to share what I learnt with you. All the wines we tried are reasonably priced, and generally widely available to buy, so each wine name will be hyperlinked to where you can buy it if you want to try any of them.

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