Michael Berkeley's guest this week is the former top chef, award-winning cookery writer and current presenter of the BBC1 TV series 'The Good Cook', Simon Hopkinson. Born in Bury, he was a chorister at St John's College, Cambridge, but left school at 17 to work in the kitchens of Le Normandie in Birtle, Lancashire, under Yves Champeau. In 1978 he became the youngest chef to acquire an Egon Ronay star with his restaurant The Shed in Dinas, Pembrokeshire. In 1983 he was installed as chef at Hilaire in London's Old Brompton Road, before working as chef and joint proprietor of Bibendum on the Fulham Road, winning plaudits for his philosophy of simple, well-judged cooking influenced by Richard Olney, Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David.
In 1994 he published his first cookbook, 'Roast Chicken and Other Stories', which just over a decade later was voted 'Most Useful Cookbook of All Time' by Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine. From 1995 Simon Hopkinson has been a full-time cookery writer: his subsequent books have included 'The Prawn Cocktail Years', 'The Vegetarian Option', and 'Sweetbreads, Liver and Kidneys', as well as 'Week In, Week Out', a collection of stories based on his weekly food columns for The Independent.
His love of music stems from his early choral training, and includes recordings of British choral music by the St John's College choir, as well as Delius's orchestral rhapsody 'On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring', Copland's 'Fanfare for the Common Man', French sacred organ music by Alain, and Messiaen's beautiful motet 'O sacrum convivium'.