WHO’S COOKING IN LONDON?
VALENTINE WARNER IS REVEALING HIS TOUCH
STYLE AND STORY BY VIRGINIA GALATERI
When did you decide to become a chef?
When I realized that I spent more time thinking about things I could do with sweetbreads or octopuses than I did about my painting. As a child I used to stand on a chair next to the AGA and watch mum and dad cook and would often be found flicking through my mother’s extensive collection of old cook books fascinated by pictures of jelly moulds or curious game birds. I was inevitably heading towards the chopping board via a crooked path.
What and/or who inspires you and your cuisine?
Anyone whose food I enjoy be they home cook or famous chef. It could be an old Greek widow cooking lamb chops, a fried fish stall in a Mexican garage or the delicious food of Henry Harris at Racine in London. It may just be an amazing Provencal tomato with salt. I follow my nose and it normally finds good things. I do a lot of scribbling in small note books so I don’t forget restaurants or inspirations from things I’ve eaten. My passion is cooking over charcoal. The smoke is an ingredient I will never fall out of love with.
There are too many good cooks and writers to mention here. There are many writers and cooks, farmers, knife makers, fishermen, who have influenced the way I cook. I love complicated dishes every now and then, but unfussy provincial farmhouse food is what I’m drawn too. My friend Steve Parle, a brilliant chef, describes his cooking style as ‘International Grandmother’. I’d say the same.
You love to share your favorites with your fans through your website
Sharing is important. Sometimes you have to be tactical, but generally speaking I like to see everyone doing well, so the site includes a directory of things I have found and value, be they food drink, tents, knifes, fishing rods, and nice shoes made by Tod’s.
Tell me about your first encounter with Tod’s
As a teenager noticing lots of people in Nice harbour had the same style shoe on and subsequently learning they were Tod’s.
When you think of the brand Tod’s what thoughts and associations come to mind?
I see Tod’s as a more European than British look. I’d describe it as smart, casual, very functional and well designed but not fussy.
How would you describe your style?
It really depends on my mood and location. I like to look smart when the occasion demands it. In the country I’ll probably in well used outdoor gear that smells of wood smoke. I wear jeans most of the time, have a bit of an addiction to knitwear and always seem to be wearing canvas shoes in the wrong weather. If I ever have spare cash to spend on clothes I get my shirts made for me.
What does London as a city means to you and why is it such a great place?
London is my other home when away from the fields and woods. It’s the flip side of my personality. Art, music, exhibitions food and drink… it has so much to offer. It never fails to surprise. I love the fact that it feels like different towns from area to area but all scrunched up together. I prefer its random layout to, say, the grids of New York. There is always something new and surprising funny or odd to be winkled out of London.
Where is your favorite place in London and why?
I think it would undoubtedly be the Natural History Museum. I spent many happy days there as a child looking at the mammals, birds, beetles, skeletons. I was amazed and walked around with my eyes on stalks. It still has the same effect. The inside of the building amplifies the beauty of its contents. The outside is equally splendid. Although nature is more beautiful than anything the human race can design, this extraordinary bit of architecture is about as fitting a tribute as anyone could erect in honor of Mother Nature.
What is it that you cannot live without?
My children and fishing.
What’s the best advice you would give to a young up and coming chef?
Understand nature. Cook with love or not at all. Keep it simple!
Photo by Pietro Olivetta
Kitchen design thanks to www.samrileydesign.com