Food and Drink: The man who ate everything

Ten years ago Jeremy Round, The Independent's food writer, died tragically young. We launch a competition in his memory, and fellow foodies celebrate his work

IT WAS the summer of 1986. The incubating `Independent' wanted a food writer to expand the often stale and pompous formula of recipe and restaurant write-ups in its rivals. I spotted a little piece in `Harper's & Queen' by a young man called Jeremy Round, and asked him to come in for a chat. He was knowledgeable, totally lacking in pretension and great fun. He wrote like a dream and his real ambition was to write poetry. He got the job. He was 29. Only three years later, Jeremy won simultaneously the Glenfiddich restaurant writer of the year award, and the trophy for overall winner of the competition `for his special and significant contribution to the raising the standard and our knowledge of what we eat'. His restaurant reviews won not only the respect of his readers but of the likes of Raymond Blanc, Marco Pierre White and Nico Ladenis. A series highlighting the best produce available each month and how to cook it formed the basis of his book, `The Independent Cook'.There were virgin olive oil tasting sessions and a campaign for real bread. Staple fare these days, but not back then. By 1989 he was ready to head for the United States, to travel and write about other things. Shortly before he was due to leave, he died unexpectedly. I always knew he would be irreplaceable. He was.

Hilly Janes

Last year Jeffrey Steingarten published a selection of his stimulating pieces from American Vogue under the title The Man Who Ate Everything. The man who really ate everything was Jeremy Round. I know because I watched him at work. Jeremy not only tackled everything in sight, but went out of his way to suss out foods we'd never heard of. I'm not saying he was greedy, but he had an almost limitless curiosity and a droll sense of the ridiculous. His enthusiasm for the novel spilled over into his column. Whether it was Afghan rice pudding or hominy grits, Jeremy was ready with a spoon and fork.

Derek Cooper, BBC food broadcaster

HE WAS a rare man - he hasn't been replaced. His knowledge was first rate and he was a great all-rounder. He was very unusual in that he would be writing an article, for example about endive, and he'd ring me up and say "tell me three or four things that you'd do with endive" -a perfect example of his professionalism and humility. He was a critic and food journalist with a tremendous amount of integrity.

Marco Pierre White, Oak Room

I MET Jeremy Round at the first of an occasional, and blessedly short- lived, series of lunches and dinners where "the critics" cooked for "the chefs". His gentle manner, disarming wit and ease with all those around him confirmed to me all that I had envisaged him to be from reading his column in The Independent. On future occasions, Jeremy, his boyfriend Jeremy Trevethan and I would meet for - tragically - only a few further jolly dinners and lunches. One of these was a lunch at Kensington Place, where what began as a kind of interview with me for an article careered most successfully into dinner, too. Now I come to think of it, such misbehaviour could really not have happened with anyone else.

Simon Hopkinson

JEREMY CAME to interview me. We had both recently been travelling in Turkey. After he finished asking me questions, he described with extraordinary passion and humour his travelling experiences, the food he had eaten, the people he had met. Then, for almost an hour, we discussed the role of the food writer and how best to fulfil the obligations; about integrity and authenticity, and about passing on the joys of good food. Being with him was always uplifting, and there was a kind of innocence. He was also great fun.

Claudia Roden, food writer

WHAT I appreciated most in Jeremy was his wit, often self-deprecatory. And what I chose to represent him, with his warm approval, in an anthology of writing about food was a poem ["Utopia"] he wrote on realising, from something Paul Levy had written, that he had hitherto been part of the vulgar herd who did not know that tea is seldom drunk with food in China. It began:

Just once to get it all right! / To wake having had enough sleep, alert / To spring at a day of sufficient exercise, / Balanced diet, faultless personal hygiene, / And satisfying creative endeavour.

And ended with the thought:

That some day just imaginable, either no one who doesn't / Will be thought vulgar, or everyone will know how / Seldom tea is drunk with food in China.

Alan Davidson, food writer

"AT THE time Jeremy died I thought he was a typical Mercutio, one of my favourite characters - the beguiling swagger, the panache, the total refusal to take himself and his work over- seriously, the charm, and the smile."

Elizabeth David in a letter to Paul Bailey, the novelist, 25 October 1990

JEREMY ROUND was a bon viveur. He was a person that bit into life, enjoying it shamelessly with no guilt, unlike most English people. Besides that, though, he was an extremely serious food writer. He was not only interested in restaurants, but also supermarkets, the food chain, all food issues. He was very interested in bringing the consumer to be far more critical and demanding. He criticised in a very honest way, but was never blunt. He had such a passion for food that he could easily deconstruct the food itself. Few critics can do that.

Raymond Blanc, Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons

THERE WAS supposed to be a degree of competitiveness in the air, but when I found myself cooking side by side with Jeremy in a competition, we talked and talked, as he lovingly slashed his leg of lamb. Good cook as he was, Jeremy decided that the pen was mightier than the Sabatier, and his Saturday columns became a must-read. They reflected Jeremy so well, an immense passion for food allied with a straight-forwardness, a naturally elegant turn of phrase coupled with a joyous deflating of over-large egos. Jeremy 10 years on would have been a strong voice against humbug, sycophancy and low standards, imperfectly masked by spurious innovation.

Frances Bissell, food writer

HE HAD a delightfully naughty sense of humour and loved a good gossip. He brought a breath of fresh air to food-writing that blossomed at The Independent. He wrote with interest and curiosity, in a way that made the production and preparation of food seem interesting, accessible and relevant to daily life. He had a knack of wearing his knowledge lightly, never afraid to own up when he didn't know something.

Lindsey Bareham, food writer

I HAVE two abiding memories of Jeremy. The first, when he came for lunch at the restaurant. I talked to him afterwards and he said, "I especially liked everything". My other memory is of being with him when he won the Glenfiddich trophy, and he literally fell over backwards. He was a delightfully modest, unassuming man. His appetite and enthusiasm are sorely missed.

Rowley Leigh, Kensington Place

JEREMY ROUND, The Independent and British taste came together with happy synchronicity. The nation was starting to accept that food mattered. Food writers and restaurant critics did not write about country cooks in those still recent days: or if they did it was to score metroland points off uncivilised bumpkins. Jeremy was more generous, and in consequence more appreciated and more informative.

Tom Jaine, ex-editor `Good Food Guide'

JEREMY WOULD have hugely applauded the outbreak of foodism that has followed since his death. Nothing, I suspect, could have pleased him more. Food was only a part of his passion: people were an equal inspiration to him. His writing was just a fusion of his excitement and huge curiosity about both. He was a fastidious cook, rarely veering from a recipe he was following, but always remembering that whoever he was cooking for did or did not like something. I still recall his recipe for a perfect Bloody Mary, and if he were here we would be arguing over whether the celery should be chopped or not. At which point, I am sure, Jeremy would have got up and insisted we make some more to compare.

Drew Smith, ex-editor

`Good Food Guide'

MY FRIENDSHIP with Jeremy was completely unprofessional in that I considered we were friends rather than fellow food-writers. I did really enjoy his writing and his way of looking at things. We would find the same things funny - he was quite a bit younger than me, but he had an ageless quality. We used to have marvellous food orgies together. I have a photo of him eating stuffed baby octopus in Portugal with black ink pouring down his chin. Rather like a madly happy Dracula.

Josceline Dimbleby, food writer

I REMEMBER a visit to Istanbul with Jeremy. He knew all the best kebab houses and cafes, pudding and pastry shops. He introduced me to delicious street food, from stuffed mussels to mastic ice cream. He spoke Turkish fluently and had absorbed enough of the street culture to barter like a local. It was a riotous few days; Jeremy was fun to be with and did everything with panache. He was droll, witty, entertaining and very knowledgeable - all qualities which he brought to his writing.

Jill Norman, writer and publishing consultant

JEREMY LOVED food, wine and people, although not necessarily in that order. You couldn't help but be disarmed and seduced by his gentle good humour and sensitivity. Though he had no time for the pretensions of foodie dogma, he was a tolerant, constructive critic with a fascination for blending fresh ingredients to create distinctive flavours. An innovative cook, he deligh- ted particularly in all things Turkish.

Anthony Rose

HE WAS the bearer of the food torch which passed from Elizabeth David to Jane Grigson to him. Usually there's one person who's head and shoulders above his contemporaries, and he was that one. And I'm not saying that just because he's dead. No one matched his eclecticism and wit, his wicked humour. I still use his book Independent Cook and I will not lend it to anyone - I'm paranoid someone will nick it.

Clarissa Dickson Wright, food writer

`Jeremy Round's Independent Cook' will be re-issued next April by Pan

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