I always preferred cooking lunch than dinner. Lunch is much more spontaneous. I’m not saying that I’m a particularly spontaneous cook, I like to cook the same things over and over again, but I liked the feel of a lunch service more.
One of my most memorable times was in the kitchen in Bibendum when there was Jeremy Lee, Philip Howard, Matthew and Henry Harris and Bruce Poole all at the same time. It was a very special time because they were all seriously talented chefs who have since gone on to do some great things. It was a very good time of my life.
I've just finished my new book The Vegetarian Option. I wanted to write a cookbook about cooking something that is lovely rather than because it is vegetarian. It should really be called The Non-Carnivore’s Cookbook because it’s about not cooking with meat, poultry or fish rather than cooking with vegetables.
I cook every single day and love to cook myself really nice food.
Fancy food has never not been around, it just flits in and out. As long as people cook what they want to and people go and eat it then there isn’t a problem. One can generalise too much about the type of food people are cooking.
I am hugely impressed by cookery writers such as Elizabeth David and Nigel Slater. And I’m a big fan of Rowley Leigh. He’s a fantastic writer
To write about food you have to love eating. A love of cooking helps too but sometimes chefs write books that don’t convey how delicious the food is going to be. There needs to be a certain amount of greed and anticipation when writing about food.
I prefer cooking to writing about food, but I prefer what I’m doing now to working in a kitchen.
In a restaurant vegetarian options are normally a last-minute request from the head chef and it’s either thrown together or badly thought out so it’s not very nice. If you are a vegetarian eating in May or June there is nothing better to eat than asparagus with Hollandaise sauce.
Bibendum is still on my mind. I’m still a shareholder and director.
I don’t go out to restaurants as much a I used to. When I go out I want to make sure I eat well. At the moment I love Terroirs (in Charing Cross) and the simplicity of it. The food is great and the staff are lovely.
It is useful to have a dish you can’t stand. Mine is the Japanese fermented soya bean known collectively as ‘natto’. It smells of vomit, but obviously not to the Japanese. And not to Tom Parker Bowles, either, who is a big fan. We’ve had many arguments over it.
I’ve had no regrets. Apart from after I left my first restaurant and opened up a place in Fishguard, which was a mistake. It didn’t work out and that’s when I fled west Wales to come to London to become an Egon Ronay inspector.
I would like to write another newspaper column. I wrote for the Independent for eight years and thought I’d worn it out. But I’m coming round to having more to say again.
I like classical cooking. I’m cooking a dish of spicy pig’s tripe at the moment.
Simon Hopkinson’s latest book, The Vegetarian Option, is published by Quadrille on 16 October, RSP £20.