My Life In Food: Patricia Michelson


After successfully selling Beaufort Chalet d'Alpage from her garden shed in Highgate, north London, Patricia opened a cheese shop, La Fromagerie, in Highbury Park in 1992. Ten years later she opened a second on Marylebone High Street and has written two award-winning books, Cheese and The Cheese Room.

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

I am always using my knives. I've been getting them made specially from a knifemaker in Turin called Coltelleria Collini for years. It's a fantastically interesting company that also specialises in making swords. All its knives – like, I imagine, its swords – are thin-bladed, balanced and fitperfectly in the hand. My least used piece of kit is my tin opener. I'm not showing off, but really I'm not that type of cook. If I want something I just pop to the market and grab it. My cupboards are usually empty.

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

Most Sundays I do this. I borrow £10 from the shop's till at lunch and run across the road to the farmers' market. I tend to pick up some bacon, or fish if there is any left and always some fresh bread. Plus as many vegetables as I can carry.

What do you eat for comfort?

I adore Fry's Chocolate Cream bars. All that crisp dark chocolate giving way to the creamy fondant – delicious. They're my secret pleasure. I pop into the corner shop on the way home to get them and the shopkeeper gives me a funny look, as if to say: "She's here for her Fry's again." But I like them too much to care. They're the taste of my childhood.

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

I'd have to have bread. You can't live without good bread. I love Boulangerie du Paris. It makes the flutes we sell in the shop – in a wood-burning stove – and are simply delicious. The shell is wonderfully crispy, the middle soft and chewy. Smear lots of butter on it and have it with a glass of wine and you're in heaven.

What's your desert-island recipe?

Toasted cheese. I have a very specific way of making it. You get two medium chunks of sourdough bread. Brush one slice liberally with white wine. Take the other piece and spread grain mustard thinly onto it and then layer slivers of comte cheese on top. Put them together and press down. Now brush melted butter over all the sandwiches and cook under the grill until the cheese oozes out of the sides. It's fast food done well.

What's your favourite restaurant?

Galvin Bistro Deluxe on Baker Street. I call it my canteen. It epitomises the local, if somewhat bourgeois, restaurant for me. It really understands the little rituals of dining out. You can relax into the whole occasion when you're there.

What's your favourite cookbook?

I've fallen slightly in love with Penguin's Great Food series. It's reproduced lots of historical cookbooks in miniaturised form. I particularly like Agnes Jekyll's A Little Dinner Before the Play. She counsels cooks to do things simply and with care, which is exactly what we try to do with our pre-theatre food.

Who taught you to cook?

It would be nice to garner my mother with praise at this point – but she only taught me how to make sandwiches. I taught myself how to cook and, indeed, about cheese. That's the best way to do it, I think: your passion leads you.

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