My first novel, Pearshaped, is about a pudding developer for a supermarket – a job I used to do (more or less: I worked in soup, breakfast cereal and vegetable side dishes – sadly not in cake.)
My second, Leftovers, is about a girl who makes TV ads for pizzas. Hmmm, I used to do that too – are you sensing a theme here?
My brand new book, The Dish – is about a food critic – my absolute dream job but one I have yet to do. It was partly inspired by a hilarious hissy fit American restaurateur and TV personality Guy Fieri threw, when NYTimes food critic Pete Wells gave his restaurant the mother of all slaggings.
And it was partly inspired by my belief that a food critic needs to be anonymous in order to best replicate a normal diner’s experience. Ruth Reichl, award winning New York Times critic, wrote a whole book about her sometimes-extravagant attempts to disguise herself while on the job – Garlic and Sapphires
False moustaches aside, Reichl has a point. I’ve eaten out with a food reviewer and it is a very different experience from being a civilian, as dear Elizabeth Hurley would call us mere mortals. Free Champagne, extra amuse bouches, obsequiousness-a-go-go.
That’s why my favourite restaurant critic is the brilliant Marina O’Loughlin in The Guardian. Well, that’s not the only reason she’s my favourite. Other reasons: she is knife-sharp, and funny and a great writer and her palate is spot on. She basically nails a place without putting herself in the centre of it, her ego is not on the page – just her ability to bring a restaurant fully to life as though you were sitting right there at the table with her.
She very kindly agreed to a speedy Q&A with me, below:
Your ideal Valentine’s meal / restaurant
On the sofa, in front of Millionaire Matchmaker, eating cheese on toast. ALONE. Am very anti-Valentine’s, or any kind of ‘organised’ romance.
The very best thing about being a restaurant critic
All those restaurants, of course.
The most delicious thing you’ve eaten in London in recent months
The game pithivier at Portland. It made me come over all unnecessary. http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/feb/06/portland-london-w1-restaurant-review-marina-oloughlin
Most jumped on bandwagon in food
Pulled bloody pork. When KFC start doing pulled chicken, you know we’ve reached peak bandwagon.
What job do you dream of doing (if any) – given you have a lot of people’s dream job
I’d like to work for Patty Stanger, The Millionaire Matchmaker.
Your favourite burger in the UK
Have a massive soft spot for Patty & Bun.
The best way with a potato you’ve ever encountered
Joel Robuchon’s mash is ambrosial – reputed to be 50% butter. Otherwise, crisps.
(This is not a picture of Marina, by the way.)