Pearls of Wisdom: Simon Hopkinson

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cooking, Culinary art

Hopkins was a chef for 15  years before becoming a writer
Hopkins was a chef for 15 years before becoming a writer
Bibendum's former head chef Simon Hopkinson, now a cookery writer, shares his thoughts on the industry

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​.


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