The Good Cook: In front of the camera
The very idea that I am to be featured as a cook on television - and on BBC One no less - is a bit surreal to me. I had always said, “no - never! I just can't look into that terrible black hole!” (the camera lens), addressing bewildered folk who thought I might be quite good at this kind of carry on, and quietly reassuring myself that no one with any sense would ever approach me anyway.
Then, quite suddenly, it was April 2010 and I was in a meeting with the BBC and I talked for England. The TV folk couldn't get a word in edgeways. I find I tend to do just that when asked to talk about food. I can sprout forth with much enthusiasm - and rude opinion, let it be said - on the subject which is closest to my heart. And so, it began... The Good Cook series starts this Friday.
Although I am still involved in the restaurant Bibendum where I was the inaugural chef in 1987, I hung up my apron for the final time in 1995, and haven't toiled in a professional kitchen since then. Quite simply, I like to cook and I like to cook well. I do it every day at home, often just for me and, occasionally, for one or two lunch guests. I never cook dinner parties, nor do I enjoy going out to them. There are one or two exceptions, but I will usually help with the cooking or take a dish I have made at home. When I stay with close friends in Kent, and also in Somerset, both of whom have especially nice kitchens, I always cook a lot. This is not expected; I just enjoy making something delicious for my hosts.
I will also shop anywhere. I know there are certain things I rely on at my local supermarket (boned and rolled breast of lamb for example; it’s tasty and cheap), or at my Saturday farmers' market (fabulous, untreated Guernsey cream). I also love my very local Thai shop, not-quite-so local Iranian stores and a huge, very expensive organic emporium (extraordinarily delicious Italian butter in tins).
What I really wanted to achieve from this television series was to show how it can be so enjoyable and worthwhile spending a little time on cooking. As an end result you produce something utterly delicious. Making good food is not necessarily always easy (this has never fooled me!), and practice will always make perfect. You'll find a mixture of recipes drawn from my childhood, my restaurant career, and my most memorable meals - from coq au vin and baked pappardelle with pancetta and porcini to sticky toffee pudding and everyone's favourite, chocolate pot [coming to the website soon]. But I would be quite happy if just an occasional dish may catch your eye and cause you to think, “yes, I think I would like to cook that too.”
Cooking is my life. It is what I do. And you know what? I had a ball staring into that terrible black hole. I look forward to hearing what you think of the series and recipes.
Simon Hopkinson is a food writer and presenter of The Good Cook.