LLeading ights 36 AUGUST 2017 LEADING LIGHTS Simon Rimmer Chef Simon Rimmer is a regular on our TV screens, hosting Sunday Brunch on Channel 4 with Tim Lovejoy, as well as appearing on Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen, along with various food-related documentary series. He co-owns several restaurants and gastro pubs in the UK and Dubai including Green’s, a vegetarian restaurant in Manchester. You bought a restaurant in 1990 – but had no culinary experience. What were you thinking – and how did you manage to pull it off? When I was a student I worked front of house in bars and restaurants, and I just fell in love with the industry. When I left university, I worked as a freelance designer but I always had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind. I really missed working in food and drink so my business partner and I said ‘Let’s take a chance’ and we bought Greens. We were lucky with the location in a part of Manchester that was becoming quite cool. There wasn’t the competition that there is today and customers were nowhere near as sophisticated. It was a lot of luck, hard work and a lot of joy. What benefits does being a self-taught chef bring? I didn’t know what was right and wrong so I was pretty creative! It was all about instinct and what ‘felt right’. I had a child-like excitement which still hasn’t stopped. The downside was that I had to learn backwards because my rudimentary skills weren’t as good as my creative skills, so I had to learn things like filleting fish and how to butcher meat. As a busy TV chef, how much time do you actually get to spent in the kitchen of your restaurants/gastro pubs? I’m on site every day that I’m not filming but I don’t do anywhere near as much service as I used to. I’ve done my time standing at the stove – it’s a young man’s job! Instead I’m in the kitchen developing new dishes and chefs. You’re a champion of “magpie cuisine”. Tell us more. Not being trained, I would look at something I liked and think ‘I’ll use that’ but not in a conventional way. So maybe taking Jamaican rice and peas and putting it with a Japanese influence – and making it work together. I’ll steal ideas from anywhere! Is vegetarian food becoming more popular amongst meat-eaters? It goes in peaks and troughs. There are times where a new wave of people want to go down that route – and we’re in the midst of one at the moment. People seem to be eating a varied diet and choosing to go meat-free on a regular basis. There are others who choose a plant-based diet but aren’t vegans because they wear leather shoes and jackets. It’s really interesting and you have to respond to the needs of the customers. Greens has been going for 27 years and, at the moment 70% of our dishes are vegan, but two years ago it was 30%. What advice can you offer fellow chefs when planning their vegetarian offering? Meat and two veg is the staple of most menus but veg and two veg doesn’t work so you have to make the dish balance in a different way. If you’ve got a fillet steak, it’s job done, but you can’t do that with aubergines. You need to be more creative. Flavour, texture and appearance are what make a great dish. Brunch, as a meal occasion, is now very much in vogue. Why do you think that is – and what would be your perfect brunch? People just eat out more and aren’t restricted to specific times. Four years ago the brunch concept was alien outside of London but dining habits have changed and people tend to graze now. Brunch has revolutionised weekend dining. My ideal brunch would be an overload of bacon with American sour pancakes, maple syrup, orange and carrot juice and as much coffee as you could throw at me. Brunch is now a meal occasion with changing eating habits. Simon’s favourit e is Pancakes with bacon and maple syrup! Your recent TV series ‘Eat the Week with Iceland’ showed busy families how to make healthy, tasty food using frozen products. Do you think there is still a “snob factor” around professional chefs using frozen products? Which is your fave frozen product and why? Yes I do think that some chefs believe frozen isn’t as good as fresh even though in blind tastings, frozen is at least as good as fresh in terms of flavour profile. I made a documentary about this and was pleasantly surprised. Frozen peas are one the greatest things you can buy and are brilliantly versatile.
Stir it up magazine AUGUST 2017
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