My Life In Food: Oliver Peyton


After making his name with Atlantic Bar & Grill in London in the Nineties, Oliver Peyton founded Peyton and Byrne , whose restaurants include those at the National Gallery and Royal Academy. He regularly appears as a judge on the BBC's Great British Menu.

What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?

A blender is by far my most used. I have three children of 10, eight and three and I'm constantly using it to make them food. My least used bits of kit are probably my huge Le Creuset pots. They are attractive things, but, my god, the cost of buying them. And now they just sit gathering dust.

If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

I'd go straight to one of the Franco Manca pizza restaurants. There are three of them, in Brixton, Chiswick and the Westfield Centre at Stratford. I always have one of their daily specials, which are only £7 or £8, and always fantastic. The burrata pizza is particularly good.

What do you eat for comfort?

Pesto pasta is my go-to comfort dish. If I come in late or I've got some crisis with the children I cook that. I make my own basil pesto, and I'm really terrible and use two-year-old parmesan and Fontodi olive oil, which is far too expensive, but it makes for fantastic pesto.

If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Bread, without doubt – it is so much more versatile. I eat it much more than I do potatoes. I have it toasted for breakfast, I use it to make sandwiches – I eat it all the time. I walk down to the bakery every morning at about seven and get the family's bread. I think it is important to do that. Supermarket bread really doesn't cut it.

What's your desert island recipe?

I don't think I'd take a recipe to a desert island, better to take a collection of things I'd like to eat instead. Olive oil would be at the core (not many a day goes by when I'm not using it in one or two meals – and I'm not averse to scooping the last bit from the bottle and drinking it). I'd also take some burrata cheese and lots of prosciutto.

What's your favourite restaurant?

The River Café in Hammersmith. My wife and I used to go before we were married and we always go at least once a year; it's something I always look forward to. The food isn't authentic Italian – in fact, if you took an Italian, they wouldn't recognise it – but it's no less brilliant for that. The food, the room, the service, it is all very attractive.

What's your favourite cookbook?

Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables. I remember before I opened my first restaurant we were going on a tour of the world visiting restaurants and on a whim went to Chez Panisse in California. And it was a total change from all the very elaborate dishes we'd been eating at Charlie Trotter's and all the other popular restaurants. Everything was simple, fresh and pared down – it takes someone very clever to do that as successfully as she did.

Who taught you to cook?

My mother. I grew up on a farm, so was very aware of food, where it came from and how animals were looked after and killed. I really learnt to respect ingredients.

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