Who is your food hero?
I have lots but let’s go local with one of my favourites – Patricia Michelson. I have such admiration for her vision, knowledge, business sense, ethos and values.
If you were the mayor of London for the day, what would be the first thing you’d do?
Make sure every child had access to 3 good meals a day and set up a programme for children to visit farms so they can spend time connecting to nature rather than tech – it’s educational but also spiritually and mentally nourishing.
What is the most important piece of advice for someone wanting to open their first restaurant?
Read Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table and really get to grips with the essentials like your purpose and the kind of culture you want to create. Also, try and put in sustainability measures from the very beginning.
What are you reading at the moment?
A few things but by my bedside now are Niki Segnit’s brilliant The Flavour Thesaurus: More Flavours Plant led Pairings and Ideas for cooks – I love her writing and Gordon Brown’s Seven Ways to Change the World: How to Fix the Most Pressing Problems we Face – he was my first ever employer and remains a personal hero.
What is your most treasured kitchen possession?
Growing up in Nairobi, visitors regularly dropped in and the kitchen was always full of women preparing chai and snacks. “Our guests are our gods,” was my grandmother’s mantra. These snacks included sev: spiced chickpea-flour noodles piped out of a brass sev sancha into scorching oil and fried to an off-the-Richter crunch. The batter sits in a main cylinder, to which you fit discs with various shapes punched into them, then squeeze the dough out using a manual lever. As a child, I coveted it like a toy and as an adult I first pilfered, then inherited it. I rarely use it, but I treasure it. In its patina is my grandmother’s coconut oil scent, her wit, her stories with a million digressions and her lesson in generosity: if you can share your snacks, you can share anything
What can’t you do without in your food cupboard at home?
Pulses and lentils. They are nutritional powerhouses packed full of protein, fibre and essential nutrients. They’re good for us, and the planet too. Beans and pulses have a low carbon footprint compared to meat proteins, require little water to grow and improve the health of depleted soil. They’re cheap, humble and dependable. I am currently obsessed with Bold Bean Co which I have created several delicious things with.
Music while you cook? and if yes what do you like listening to?
I love Nitin Sawhney’s eclectic music and how he uses it as a platform for confronting so many important issues from race to social injustices. I am currently excited about his new album Identity.
What is your go to recipe for the quickest snack?
I can’t resist a hot buttered crumpet (I love Jones crumpets with Bungay Butter) or good bread topped with cheese. It never fails to feel like a luxury.
What would be the best advice to your younger self just starting out?
Keep rebelling also boys will come and go but A level results are forever!
Where do you travel to for culinary inspiration?
All travel inspires me, but I go nuts for the produce in Italy.
What is your go to restaurant in London?
So many favourites but I love the food and hospitality at Maison Francois and of course there is that enthralling pudding trolley.
What’s your favourite cheese?
The truffle brie at La Fromagerie – my husband bought it for me as part of a hamper of good things when he proposed to me at the Italian gardens near Lancaster Gate. It might have been why I said yes.