Gregg Wallace: 'Barbecues push appalling food to new heights'

 

My earliest food memory... My grandmother's roast lamb. She used to have mint growing inside a disused sink outside the kitchen door, and I'd go and pick it for the mint sauce. My grandmother was a fantastic cook. Her food was wet – she'd swamp her roast dinners in gravy so they were like a stew. I've loved wet food ever since.

My store-cupboard essentials... Butterscotch-flavour Angel Delight. It's so light and fluffy and moreish. In my new restaurant, there's going to be a little shot glass of it as a pre-dessert because I love it so much.

My favourite cookbook... Marcella Hazan's The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking [1992]. It covers the whole of Italy, region by region: there are no pictures, she's bossy and it's just brilliant. My favourite recipe is the focaccia. It's like a gym work-out – you really have to slam [the dough] about.

My culinary tip... Don't ask a chef for a recipe: the better the chef, the worse the recipe. Try taking one from my mate Michel Roux [Jr]. They never work and you know why? Because what exactly is "a squeeze of lemon"? What's "a pinch of salt"? These chefs don't write these things down; they know and feel them.

Favourite food shop... Valvona & Crolla, an Italian deli in Edinburgh. I remember the first time I went; I'd heard a lot about it, but I saw this tiny little shop front with blacked-out windows and thought, "Is this it?". But what they've done is buy up the buildings behind them so you just walk through this amazing cave of Italian produce. Whenever I go up to Edinburgh for the rugby, I always try to stop by.

My top table... Le Gavroche. If you don't want to eat the food, then take it home and snog it because it's amazing. It doesn't get better than their veal chop with a double helping of creamed-morel sauce and pommes purée.

My dream dining companion...Alexander the Great, because the man was nuts. He was the world's biggest overachiever: he came from a country the size of Wales, and he defeated an empire [the Persian empire], the size of the US. I'd dine with him in Persia in a luxurious tent with an army of concubines. It would be a night of spices and strong wines, though I'd just have to hope he didn't stab me in a rout.

My guilty pleasure...A Big Mac, though I don't have them very often since I got married because my beautiful wife looks after me. I've never understood why foodies think that a love of roast quails, say, should exclude a love of fish fingers. I go to Harvester, but every time I put that on Twitter, I get loads of snotty responses going, "I wouldn't expect to find you there." I mean, it has a salad bar and grilled chicken, what's the problem? Is it because poor people go there?

The strangest thing I've eaten...Roast quail with chocolate cake, which was cooked by someone on Masterchef: the Professionals. It was a perfectly good cake and a perfectly good quail, but the quail had cocoa and sugar on it, and the chocolate cake was covered in quail fat. It was their bus ticket home.

My pet hates... Waiters who put their arm [behind] their back while pouring wine. They don't have any idea why they're doing it, nor does anyone else. Why don't they stick their thumbs in their ears at the same time? Also, barbecues: they're part of a plot to destroy food in Britain. In the summer, the worst you used to have to put up with [at people's houses] was a buffet, but barbecues push appalling food to new heights. Men who only go into the kitchen to throw away empty beer cans suddenly think they've mastered one of the most difficult cooking techniques known to man.

Gregg Wallace is a restaurateur and television presenter. His latest restaurant, Gregg's Table, has just opened at the Bermondsey Square Hotel, London SE1

Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
Review: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
VIDEO
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Sport
Manchester United manager David Moyes looks on during his side's defeat to Everton
footballBaines and Mirallas score against United as Everton keep alive hopes of a top-four finish
Sport
Tour de France 2014Sir Rodney Walker on organising the UK stages of this year’s race
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Brown Findlay as Mary Yellan in ‘Jamaica Inn’
TVJessica Brown Findlay on playing the spirited heroine of Jamaica Inn
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
News
People
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLE
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

    Sports coaching volunteer jobs

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Kaya Responsible Travel offer a variety of sp...

    Turtle Nesting and Coral Reef Conservation in Borneo

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Volunteer with Kaya in Borneo and work on a p...

    Elephant research project in Namibia

    Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: If you have a passion for elephants and want ...

    Day In a Page

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

    The man who could have been champion of the world

    Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
    Didn’t she do well?

    Didn’t she do well?

    Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

    In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
    Before they were famous

    Before they were famous

    Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

    Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

    Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

    How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

    Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
    Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

    British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

    The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
    Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

    Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

    Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
    Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

    The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
    Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

    Cannes Film Festival

    Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
    The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

    The concept album makes surprise top ten return

    Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
    Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

    Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

    Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
    10 best baking books

    10 best baking books

    Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
    Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

    Jury still out on Pellegrini

    Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players