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24 September 2014
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Tony and Giorgio - Thursday 9 January 8.30pm, BBC TWO

With over 30 years experience between them at the sharp end of restaurant cooking, Tony Allan and Giorgio Locatelli understand food, what sells and, above all, what tastes good.

In a brand new series for BBC TWO, Tony and Giorgio answer the questions people have always wanted to ask about cooking, while serving up dishes that are stunningly simple, yet taste delicious.

Giorgio is arguably the most famous Italian chef in Britain, while Tony is one of the most influential restaurateurs in the country.

Since they started working together 12 years ago they have discovered a fresh, informal approach to eating. Their message is not to be scared, but to loosen up and make everything you eat worth eating.

They agree to disagree on everything, from truffle oil to olives and from supermarket cooking to organic food.

In addition, each programme is structured around a different concern, such as why people are scared of fish and whether we are raising a nation of children who think that fruit grows in cling film.

In their new book, Tony and Giorgio, they talk about their early culinary influences and their love of English food.

Giorgio declares: "To Italians, food is the most important thing in their lives. This obsession is based on their belief that eating good food isn't a privilege, it's a basic right.

"Everyone eats well in Italy. Eating well is a sign of well-being, of the normal functioning of a family. It doesn't matter whether they're eating in an expensive restaurant or buying a panino from a kiosk at a railway station, they will still insist on the best. And if they don't get it they will complain - loudly, of course.

"Wherever you grow up in Italy, you grow up with food. I often think about the times as a little boy when I would walk in the mountains with my grandfather.

"We would drop into Cecchino, the bakers, and buy his freshly baked michetta rolls. Then we would go to the salumeria and buy a hunk of mortadella di fegato (liver sausage). Then we would sit down on a big stone wall and my grandfather would pull out his hunting knife and slice up the sausage. A bit of sausage, a bite of bread - the flavours were fantastic. Whenever I think about that wall I can still taste that mortadella.

"When I started working at the Savoy, I started to appreciate English food. I soon discovered steak and kidney pie, which taught me how good food in this country could be. I also love Yorkshire puddings, and the great British Sunday roast, and those marvellous bread and butter puddings.

"It took me four years to discover the one true pièce de résistance of English cooking. When I was at the Savoy, I was taken to Smithfield meat market early one morning and experienced my first full English breakfast. It was all there: the salty, thick-cut bacon, the just-runny egg, the kidneys, the fruity black pudding, the greasy sausage, the baked beans the thin, buttered toast. I loved it. Suddenly, I started to understand the English."

Says Tony: "I'm naturally drawn to Italian things. I drive a Ferrari, I wear Italian clothes and I love Italian furniture. If I go more than a few days without pasta, I start getting withdrawal symptoms.

"For me, it's the simple things Italians do best: like an honest plate of spaghetti, a good loaf of crusty country bread just pulled out of a wood-fired oven, or a magnificent new-season white truffle from Alba shaved over a freshly made risotto. That's real food and real flavour.

"My mum was a very good but very English cook. The most exotic thing she ever made was pavlova. There was no such thing as a caesar salad or rocket salad or Tuscan bread salad for her.

"In our house, salad was usually some tomato and lettuce and not much more. I guess that explains this inbred craving I have for salad cream.

"I was brought up on comfort food, like shepherds pie, eggs and bacon, and steak and kidney pudding. I also inherited my love of scotch eggs, pork pies and pickles, such as gherkins and pickled onions.

"I remember when I was five or six, I picked up a pickled onion from my dad's plate and popped it in my mouth. That sharp, tongue-curling hit of vinegar was such a shock, yet such a pleasure.

"There is some pretty remarkable food in this country. For my money, British produce is the best in the world but we rarely do it justice. English apples are sensational. Our oysters, our venison, our wild fish and our cheeses are all bloody brilliant.

"Show me a perfectly cooked standing rib of beef with fresh horseradish sauce and roasted English onions, a new season's grouse straight from the oven, a wheel of carefully aged farmhouse cheddar, and some magnificent wild Scottish salmon poached in a simple court-bouillon, and I'll show you why we haven't got a thing to be ashamed of."

Notes to Editors

Programme 1: Shopping - Thursday 9 January 2003

Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli is the owner of one of the most talked about restaurants in London. He believes that good food is a fundamental right. He won't buy any produce if he can't touch and smell it.

Conversely, successful restaurateur Tony Allan argues that supermarkets are a 21st century necessity, giving buyers more choice. After all, 20 million people in Britain rely on them and simply haven't got enough time to buy their meat from a butcher and their vegetables straight from the supplier.

On a trip to Italy the pair visit a bakery where ciabatta is sold by the meter and a deli where parma ham is sold in bulk, rather than sliced in packets and Tony agrees that you can't beat the Italians when it comes to food shopping.

Back in the UK, they get the best out of the available options - from both supplier and supermarket - and cook up mushroom risotto, lamb wellington and wild berries with frozen yoghurt.

Programme 2: Fish - Thursday 16 January 2003

Restaurateur Tony Allan is passionate about fishing and runs a fish supplying company which supplies most of London's top restaurants and owns the successful fish! restaurant chain.

Chef Giorgio Locatelli hates fishing but agrees that the nation needs to be converted back to cooking it.

The pair prove that cooking fish can be simple - this week's delicious offerings are pan-fried wild salmon with balsamic vinegar; crab linguine; griddled tuna with a rocket salad and eels with mash and mustard beurre blanc.

Tony says: "Ironically, we never had fish in our house. My father was allergic to seafood, which didn't help. So my first real experience of fish was at the school canteen, when they served up glowing yellow, artificially dyed smoked haddock in tinned tomato sauce.

"I remember standing there feeling like Oliver Twist in reverse: 'Please sir, I don't want any more.'

"It was horrible of course and, to add insult to injury, I got a bone stuck in my throat. It's a wonder I ever became so passionate about fish."

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