Tom Byng: 'My mum was the Elizabeth David of Potters Bar'

My earliest food memory... My mum's spaghetti and home-made tomato sauce. In the 1970s, when I was growing up, most people's [idea of spaghetti was] Heinz Spaghetti Hoops, so my mum was definitely ahead of the curve. She was the Elizabeth David of Potters Bar.

My favourite cookbook... Roast Chicken and Other Stories by Simon Hopkinson (Ebury, £12). He's a legend among restaurateurs. It's full of uplifting, nostalgic dishes that have a story, and it's written in a really easy-going, gentle, intelligent way. He reflects the kind of foodie I am: I like things that are simple and well done; I'm not one for scientific, Heston Blumenthal-style cooking.

The kitchen appliance I can't live without... A cast-iron Le Creuset saucepan my mum gave me for my 18th birthday. I've had it for 20 years. I broke one of its handles some time in the 1990s but I still use it with one handle and it's never let me down; it's a friend for life.

My culinary tip... When you read recipes, they often tell you to soften an onion for five minutes but never have I softened one successfully in that time. You've got to sweat them on a low heat for at least 10 to 15 minutes.

My favourite food shop... HG Walter, a butcher in West Kensington, London. I used to live around there: it's a great, unsung family butcher with wonderful, friendly service. Even though I live nowhere near there now, I still religiously drive down there every Saturday to get a set list of things: a free-range chicken, eight chipolatas, a dozen organic eggs and some mince. It's such good quality.

My top table... The Anglesey Arms in Hammersmith – one of the original gastropubs. Its cooking has been consistently good over the 20 years I've been going and it has real soul. It also has some great stories: I used to know some of the chefs who worked there who liked a drink and sometimes in the middle of a busy Friday night, they'd say, "Hold the checks," and go outside and have a pint for 10 minutes. That might explain why the service is sometimes a bit slow!

My dream dining companion... Steve McQueen, because I ride a motorcycle and he was the coolest man who ever rode one, as in The Great Escape. We wouldn't even need to talk: I'd probably go with him to one of those diners in the middle of the desert in America where there are only three tables. It would be sunset and we'd park our bikes outside and grab a cold beer and a burger. That would be very cool.

My comfort food... Nothing beats a good hamburger, but another one for me is a classic risotto Milanese, made with arborio or carnaroli rice, chicken stock and Parmesan. I get stressed when I have to cook very precise dishes, but I find that kind of big-pot cooking very therapeutic.

My pet hates... Oysters. They're slippery, a bit rubbery, and don't taste of much, yet there's this cult around them and this idea that they're sophisticated. I had one embarrassing situation where I ordered them when I was trying to impress some people. I ate them using the correct technique of slurping without chewing but I'd put too much Tabasco on and I applied slightly too much suction to the process of sucking it. The oyster went straight down my throat, whereupon I coughed it up and it landed right back on the table in front of everyone.

My tipple of choice... A Bloody Bull, which I discovered in New York at a restaurant called JG Melon. You mix together vodka, Worcester sauce, Tabasco, lemon juice, tomato juice and beef bouillon: it's a braver Bloody Mary, but definitely an acquired taste.

Tom Byng is the founder of hamburger chain Byron, which is offering a special 8oz hamburger (Big D) sourced from O'Shea's of Knightsbridge until the end of February (

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot