What was your first job?
I was a body piercer. I started working on reception at a piercing studio in Camden when I was 15 years old. I was an early starter and had been obsessed with rock and roll and punk for years. I wanted to get pierced and my mum wouldn’t let me, so I did the ultimate rebellion and took a job that would end up with me getting pierced about 30 times in seven years. I loved working there. The studio I worked in was really professional and scrupulous, and I ended up getting obsessed with details. I went on to do anatomy and physiology at the Open University and learnt about every blood borne pathology course known to man. I’m still way too into the details and get obsessed with them in food too.
What is your guiltiest food pleasure?
Packet ramen noodles.
What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had?
Probably at Asador Etxebarri in the Basque country. Incredible produce and wine, with dishes that are cooked in the hills of the Basque country, simply over coals. Very clever but very simple and very delicious. I went with some close friends. It was a magical time.
What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
I really can’t answer that question. It’s so tough out there and I salute anyone who can make a business work, but I do hold more value to the ones who respect their teams and have a more progressive attitude.
If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
Oh man. I have so many interests... politics, philosophy, agriculture and science, but I cannot imagine not cooking in some capacity for a living.
What is your biggest regret?
Doing television shows under pressure from people around me. I’m embarrassed about quite a lot that I did at the beginning of my career, but I’m also very grateful for them in some capacity as they have all led me to where I am now.
Pet hate in the kitchen?
Lack of pride in one’s work. You have two types of chef: ones who are really invested in all the details and won’t be happy unless they’re serving perfect food, and ones who just want to get the job done and are happy to cut corners. I really have no time for chefs who don’t care.
What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
A lot of people don’t expect me to be in my kitchens. I still cook at everything I do. People are often surprised to see me grafting.
Describe your cooking style in three words
Researched. To. Death.
Most overrated food?
Seitan. It’s revolting. It’s huge in the vegan world at the moment, and it makes me horribly sad. Faux meat made from pure wheat gluten, that’s been flavoured with court bouillon is the worst idea ever.
Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
That there would be fines for suppliers getting your orders wrong or sending shit produce. I have a great relationship with my suppliers and love them all dearly, but my god I could throttle them all at some point.
What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve not had one yet. The press has been very kind to me, as has the public. I think people see how hard I work, my aims and are just very aware of it. All of us are learning on the job all the time. It’s hard work. You give so much of yourself and I can only imagine how devastating it would be for someone to not appreciate how hard you work. I live in constant fear of it, to be completely honest.
If you could cook for anyone in the world who would you pick, and why?
I’ve cooked for so many of my heroes from Adam Ant to Beyoncé. It’s when people like Pierre Koffmann or Marco Pierre White come into the equation that I get filled with fear and dread. I’ve been close to cooking for those two at points, but it’s still never happened. I guess the people who’ve influenced me the most recently are Alice Waters, Margot Henderson and Claudia Roden. I’d love to cook for them all.
What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
To be patient and to work hard to be great. That it’s a modern phenomenon for people to be head cheffing in their mid-twenties, and to be truly great you are going to need to work hard on all sections. Egos are too rife in young chefs at the moment.
Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
I can’t choose one, so I’ll pick two: good knives and a Thermomix.
What do you cook at home on your days off?
I love slow cooking food, so a good braise. I’m really into braising chicken with shallots and orange wine, making ragu and fresh pasta, pulled belt noodles and making northern Chinese or Thai food.
What’s your earliest food memory?
Eating fresh peas from our garden in Dumfries’s in Scotland.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
To be authentic, be yourself. There are so many copycats out there and it’s better to be at the forefront of the game and blaze a trail, rather to follow suit.
What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
My appendix exploded about six years ago and I then got septicaemia. It was a grizzly time.
Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
I go to Street Feast, to Dinerama. Street food, good drinks, dancing and good vibes.
Tipple of choice?
A Gibson Martini.
What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Oysters. Wood fired shellfish with garlic butter. Roast beef and all the trimmings but with gallons of really good viscous, gelatinous gravy. Rhubarb crumble and vanilla custard, double jersey cream AND really good vanilla ice cream (alla AA Gill).
Gizzi Erskine and Rose Ferguson's F!LTH is in residency at Dirty Burger, Shoreditch, until the end of March. Its signature Pure Filth burger has been added to the menu at Soho House's Mollie’s Motel in Oxfordshire.