Why Masterchef winner enjoys a taste of Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 12:47 18 October 2010 | UPDATED: 17:58 20 February 2013

Why Masterchef winner enjoys a taste of Suffolk

Why Masterchef winner enjoys a taste of Suffolk

Former Masterchef winner, food author and television presenter Thomasina Miers (34) was at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival at the end of September. Here she explains why she loves visiting our county . . .

Former Masterchef winner, food author and television presenter Thomasina Miers (34) is coming to the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival at the end of September. Here she explains why she loves visiting our county . . .

What was it like winning Masterchef in 2005?
Terrifying (in the run up), then by turns overwhelming, emotional, wonderful, unexpected. It gave me huge confidence as well. I went straight to work in the kitchens of Petersham Nurseries afterwards.

A gruelling test of your cooking skills presumably?
Ill say. We were really put through our paces. We learnt so much though I would do it all again for that. The amount you learn when you are thrown into those kitchens and have to cook under pressure is extraordinary.

And presumably it paved the way for your Wahaca restaurants in central London?
It is hard to measure which was more terrifying: competing in Masterchef or opening up Wahaca in Covent Garden! In those days I was fairly used to wandering around with a huge pit of fear in my stomach. Without Masterchef though, I would never have had the confidence to get into a restaurant kitchen and actually start cheffing. When we opened it was such a huge help to already be known as well. It meant that we were busy from day one, which by any restaurant standards is a complete dream.

When you were filming The Wild Gourmet travelling the country and foraging and eating from the land you visited the artist Jason Gathorne-Hardy in Suffolk and filmed on his land. Tell us more.
I adore Jason and his mother Caroline Cranbrook. They have done such incredible things for the local food movement and are absolute heros in my eyes. In this country supermarkets can open up very easily, wherever they want, with very little done in terms of measuring whether they are actually needed (Is there another one close by? Are there already very good shops in the area?) and if they are going to destroy local jobs and put local businesses out of business. Caroline Cranbrook actually had the intelligence to start asking questions like these which I think is fantastic. Its not that I am against supermarkets, they are obviously incredibly efficient in our modern society, but I do think its pretty disastrous for our choice as a consumer that the supermarkets have such a grip on our entire food chain. Local shops give more choice, and interestingly local markets are much cheaper than supermarkets, something that has been proved time and again in surveys.

This is your second time at the Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival? Do you like coming to Suffolk and what is its appeal?
Thanks to people like Caroline and Jason, Suffolk has a thriving local food movement. It also has wonderful restaurants, great ingredients and a beautiful landscape. One of my oldest friends lives in the area too. It is fair to say I am quite smitten!

We sometimes get overlooked by the national newspaper and magazines when it comes to food and drink in our county. As a visitor what do you know us for food-wise?
Wonderful shellfish and crab, beautiful lamb, great vegetables, dairy, game, happy pigs... you are never stuck for choice in Suffolk.

What is your favourite dish?
Way too difficult to say. I love cooking Italian, French, Spanish, Middle-Eastern, South-East Asian and Indian food quite apart from Mexican!

Favourite place to eat in Suffolk?
In the homes of friends probably...

Favourite song, film and book and why?
The The, Uncertain Smile, the live version played with Jools Holland, the most brilliant piano solo.
Film too many to name but I do love European and Chinese cinema and I watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid yesterday which was brilliant! There is masses of good Iranian cinema coming out too not to mention British!
I mainly read cookbooks, a sorry state of affairs but this summer I have been reading Hungry City by Carolyn Steele and When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro, both brilliant. Hungry City is a beautifully written and fascinating about how the country feeds the cities...

Best piece of advice you have been given?
Dont worry, be happy... although in the light of the floods in Asia, this seems a bit flippant. Maybe there is nothing to fear but fear itself ?

  • Thomasina Miers new book Mexican Food Made Simple is on sale now and she is about to open a new Wahaca restaurant in Soho at the beginning of November. The Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival runs from September 24 - October 9.

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