World's 50 Best Restaurants supremo Stefan Chomka: French pre-eminence, eating horse, and the rise of Persian cooking

 

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The majority of places on The 'world's 50 best restaurants' list cook in the French style – and that's whether they're based in Asia, Europe or South America. The list has evolved a lot since it was first published. In the early years, the UK performed disproportionately well, with 11 restaurants on the list in 2003 and 14 in both 2004 and 2005 – but last year only three featured. That's not necessarily a reflection of the quality of restaurants here, but rather that the list has kept moving on to represent the wider world, with more restaurants in South America and Asia featuring as a result.

Our landlord at university must have thought we were running an Indian takeaway My interest in food really started to pick up at university. I lived with a group of five or six people and one of us would cook for the rest each day. There was a bit of one-upmanship, mooching around each others' cookbooks. Our house in our final year wasn't particularly nice; we even had carpets in the kitchen. I love cooking Indian food, and the house basically stank of curry by the time we left.

I learnt the hard way just how sharp proper knives can be In my teens, I used to cook with relatively blunt knives, so when you cut onions or potatoes, anything that would stick to the knife, I'd just brush off with my fingers. I went to a friend's house and we were cooking dinner and he had a brand new set of knives. I was cooking onions and when I went to brush them off, I sliced all four of my fingers and covered the kitchen in blood. It showed me the difference between home and commercial equipment.

I don't have the patience to be a chef I'm far too lazy to put in the hours they do. It's all very well cooking for family, but I couldn't work with people shouting at me; the pressure would be too much.

I like a drink with my meal I wouldn't say I slosh back the wine but I'm quite a thirsty person, so when the bottle is 20ft from the table and you have to wait for the waiter to top you up, it just seems crazy. I've got up to get the bottle myself in the past, and then the sommelier gets a telling off from the manager, which is avoidable if you just leave some wine on my table.

Middle Eastern cooking is going to become more popular here over the next year There's going to be more Persian concepts and north African food. There's also going to be a move to healthier food, simply because these things tend to be cyclical. We've had a couple of years of deep-fried food, which is delicious, but people are looking more at the healthy side now.

I will eat pretty much anything I've eaten horse, donkey penis, and a variety of the stranger things you'll get on menus; more often than not, I'll tend to give things a go. I'm nosy and interested, and if it's generally eaten by people and it's not a joke, then I will at least try it and make my own decision as to whether it was nice or absolutely disgusting.

With the exception of New York, London leads the restaurant scene The design and feel of London's restaurants has really moved on in the past five years. They look really smart and cool and make good food. The only thing we don't seem to have is a chef who has confidence in our own cuisine and heritage cooking. It would be great to see us doing more with our food, be it Yorkshire puddings or pies. We still tend to look overseas and far away for the next big trend.

Stefan Chomka, 35, is the editor of 'Restaurant' magazine, whose annual World's 50 Best Restaurants awards will be held on 28 April (theworlds50best.com)

Shot on location at the Orange, 37-39 Pimlico Road, London SW1

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