My life in food: Sam Harris, chef/patron, Zucca
'you can tell the quality of a restaurant by the bread it serves when you sit down'
Thursday 20 December 2012
Harris has had a varied career, including stints at Ruth Rodgers' The River Café, Harvey Nichols, Bibendum and Leith's Cookery School. He also spent five years as an Egon Ronay inspector. He currently splits his time between his Mediterranean café, Maltings, and his Italian restaurant Zucca, both in London. The latter of which he founded in 2010, to no small acclaim, and which now runs "chef's table" evenings.
What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?
In a busy kitchen such as ours every bit of kit is heavily used, but we get through tongs and microplane graters at an incredible rate. We pretty much burnt out our ice cream machine, too, so I've just bought a new one. The least used thing would have to be our ludicrously expensive lemon juicer – it cost a fortune and sits collecting dust.
If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?
A piece of sashimi-grade tuna, and if there was a little change, a bottle of San Pellegrino water.
What do you eat for comfort?
That's tricky. But probably banana cake. It never fails to hit the spot, but it can't have cinnamon in it – that is the work of the devil! Apart from that, toast and marmalade is pretty cool – I have that before service at Zucca.
If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose ?
Bread every time. There's such diversity in bread – I'm always discovering new types whenever I go travelling. I never tire of it as I find different varieties work for me at different times of the day. Munching on grissini while looking at a menu has to be one of life's great pleasures – I reckon you can tell the quality of a restaurant by the quality of the bread it serves you when you sit down.
What's your desert island recipe?
It may seem an obvious choice, but it would have to be salsa verde. This sauce is genius. It goes with everything – fish, meat and vegetables. I never get bored with it as you can adjust the flavours with different herbs.
What's your favourite restaurant?
Such a tricky question – I can't quite decide between two. There's Guido in Piedmont or Da Tuccino in Puglia. Guido is where I learnt to make Agnolotti, the traditional filled pasta from the region. The other is the place that really turned me onto raw fish – pretty much everything that comes from the sea they serve raw. It's very cool.
What's your favourite cookbook?
Like most chefs I have loads – some of which I couldn't possibly reveal – but the bible, and it is that, that really helped me understand regional Italian food is The Classic Food of Northern Italy by Anna Del Conte. Claudia Roden's The Food of Italy also inspired me greatly.
Who taught you to cook?
Although I went to chef school and worked in various restaurants, I feel I'm pretty much self-taught. Obviously, I kept my eyes and ears open at all times, but unless you are very senior, in most restaurant kitchens you never get the chance to actually cook during service. You spend most of your time handling salads and prepping vegetables. I spent years reading and practising as much as possible in my own time and I feel we have a unique style at Zucca that grew out of this.
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