Arthur Potts Dawson: 'I love fudge, but my teeth are wrecked because of it'
Sunday 08 January 2012
My earliest food memory... Making vanilla fudge with fresh cream from the cows on my friend's farm. Going over to his was a bit like The Good Life. They had geese as their security and crazy dogs and rams you had to battle at the front door. I still love fudge, but my teeth are wrecked because of it.
My store-cupboard essentials... Olive oil, soy sauce, Marigold vegetable bouillon, balsamic vinegar, tomato ketchup, and cardamom, which I like to use to bamboozle people. Another thing I love is fennel flowers: they come from Calabria, and combine a pungent fennel punch with this wonderful summery, aromatic flavour. They're great on fish.
My favourite cookbook... Marco Pierre White's White Heat. It came out when I was 18 or 19 and it really inspired me. It's a rock'n'roll cookbook, with these wonderful photos of Marco, and it's almost heroic in its sense of what it's like to be a chef. There are also pictures of the his team knocking a guy over [and the like]: it captures the kind of camaraderie or aggressive friendship that you get in a very hard-working kitchen.
The kitchen utensil I can't live without... My magic spoon. It comes from when I worked with the Roux brothers: it's a silver spoon about twice the size of a tablespoon. Whatever you put in it – sugar, flour, cocoa powder – it usually weighs about 125g so if I'm going at speed in the kitchen, I'll always reach for that. In fact, a lot of recipes in my private cookbook say "two magic spoons of..." which confuses other people.
My culinary tip... Understand the seasons. If you buy seasonal, you're lowering the distance food has to travel, which is good for the planet, you'll be getting a more nutritional product and you'll be keeping your food costs down.
My top table...The River Café. Of all the kitchens I have worked in, none has had the sheer attention to ingredients of Ruth [Rogers] and Rosie [the late Rose Gray]. For me, the top table is not sitting next to some celebrity, but eating the best langoustine, the first olive oil of the season, the freshest mozzarella. Every single thing there is the best it can be and they never scrimp: they're not there to make a massive profit, they're there because of the food.
My dream dining companion... I can't pick just one, but Brigitte Bardot in her heyday, the Dalai Lama, Muhammad Ali in his prime, Aretha Franklin, Richard Pryor and Audrey Hepburn would all be amazing. What a fun night that would be – great jokes, great drugs, wonderful sporting memories, stunningly beautiful women and a bit of religion; the Dalai Lama is actually quite a humorous man.
My favourite comfort food... A bag of chips, because it brings back memories of my childhood. I was never happier than walking home from school with a bag of chips with lots of salt and vinegar on top, so the vinegar would run down your arm and drip through your school jacket.
My pet hates... People wasting energy in the kitchen, like when someone leaves the oven open or a tap running. It costs me and it costs the planet: chefs [who work for me] will find themselves running scared if they do things like that.
My tipple of choice... A Syrah from Fontodi, which is an unbelievable super-Tuscan wine. It's deep and sexual and sensuous, with this great smoky punch. It's such a big wine that it really only wakes up six or even 12 hours after you open it. I discovered it about nine years ago: I remember sitting with the guy who produces it and he cried when he drank it and remembered pressing the wine. The depth of his passion was incredible.
Arthur Potts Dawson is a chef. He has been working with Good Energy, the UK's leading supplier of renewably sourced electricity, to create the Good Energy Good Kitchen Guide, designed to help people reduce the carbon impact of their cooking
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