Stephen Jones: 'Champagne is far more fun with cheap crisps than canapés'


My earliest food memory... Eating ice-cream. I grew up in the Wirral in the mid-1960s and because my father was a refrigeration engineer, we had a freezer at home. We were the only family I knew who had one, and we'd always have a tub of ice-cream, which was the most unusual thing on the planet at the time.

My top cookbook... A Snob in the Kitchen, which is a very funny book by a lady called Simonetta Colonna di Cesaro. She was an Italian duchess, who was a huge celebrity in the 1960s, and the recipes come from the Italian aristocracy and their cooks. It reeks of that era's jetset glamour: there's a particularly fantastic recipe for spaghetti and Cognac sauce. It doesn't taste particularly nice, but it tastes supremely elegant.

The kitchen gadget I can't live without... My Pavoni espresso machine. It was a present from a partner 25 years ago, and I still use it every day when I'm in London. I know people have Nespressos and the like which are much easier to use, and it's a bugger to clean, but I love it for its sentimental value.

My culinary tip... If you're entertaining, breakfast is the meal to go for. I find it's really appreciated: invariably people are always hungry, and they're hopefully not too drunk to eat by the time you serve it up.

My top table... The Tangerine Dream Café in Chelsea Physic Garden. They just do the most wonderful food in the most wonderful location: it's self-service and you sit on long tables with plastic tablecloths and there's a real bonhomie between people. Also, Prunier in Paris: it's got the most gorgeous Art Deco interior. They also do a dish called Oeuf Christian Dior. It's an egg in aspic with a big dollop of caviar: of course, as I'm the milliner at Dior, I have quite a vested interest, but I can honestly say it tastes absolutely delicious.

My dream dining companion... Bryan Ferry, because I know him a little bit, but not that well, despite the fact his work has been a huge influence on my career for 30 years. And because of his son Otis, there would be lots of well-hung meat, I'm sure.

My guilty pleasure... The hot chocolate from Angelina in Paris. It's so stonkingly rich, I'm sure they must put narcotics in it. After half a cup, you feel as if you're about to pass out. Also, cheese from Paxton and Whitfield [a specialist dairy shop with branches in London, Bath and Stratford]: I'll usually go for something Welsh and unpronounceable.

The strangest thing I've eaten... So many things in Japan because I've been going there four times a year for 30 years. Whale's eyelids is one particularly bonkers thing: they were really not very nice, but they're a delicacy over there so it's a case of spitting it into your napkin when nobody's looking.

My pet hates... Supermarket vegetables which have no flavour. I have a tiny garden, but I grow some easy things such as tomatoes and courgettes, and if you do grow your own they taste so different and it's such a wonderful experience. The smell of a tomato plant is just the most delicious thing in the world.

My tipple of choice... Krug champagne, which I love having with a bag of cheap crisps: just plain Walkers, nothing handcooked by virgins or the like. I think champagne is a very essential part of life, and it's somehow far more fun to have it with crisps than a canapé: there's something about the way people take expensive wines seriously which is just not me. I find it funny that Britain apparently drinks more champagne than anywhere else in the world: in France they find it weird because they reserve it for very specific occasions.

Stephen Jones is a milliner who will be showcasing his Drifting and Dreaming collection at the Royal Ascot Fashion Show from Tuesday to Saturday. For tickets visit: ascot.co.uk

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