Have you ever watched a cookery show and wished the chef was in the hot seat? Well, I got to do just that when I had the chance to speak with some of my favourite chefs for the Bolton Food and Drink Festival earlier this year. They’re a busy bunch, those pesky genius chefs but before they undertook myriad chef demos and book signings, I managed to squeeze in a few fun questions. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood are as delectable as they are on TV, and here’s what they had to say.

*When did you know you wanted to work with food?

Mary Berry: When I left school, I enjoyed cooking. So it seemed a natural path for me to go down.

Paul Hollywood: Same here. I’ve always been interested in food, I come from a family where cooking is important and fun, and here I am.

*Do you have a professional bucket list?

MB: No. I’ve never had any great yen to travel. I specialise in home cooking and baking and that’s what makes me happy.

PH: I definitely want to do more travelling. New Zealand is my next destination. I would love to go see the All Blacks play there.

*What advice would you give a budding baker?

MB: If you have a real interest, source some good recipes. And weigh VERY VERY carefully. There are now digital scales, so you have no excuse. If you have a passion for cooking, you’ll get going. But follow the recipe for the 1st time, then you can do what you like with it. Take a good one, follow it, and if and when you feel confident, tweak it later.

PH: Get a good baking book and follow recipes. So many people don’t pay attention to detail and it’s the small things that make all the difference.

*Any new projects that you can spill about?

MB: I have my memoirs out, which includes a few recipes too.

PH: I’ve got a cookery series called Paul Hollywood’s Pies & Puds, which starts in November on BBC. Make sure you tune in!

*What are your favourite restaurants?

MB: My husband likes home cooking, so we don’t usually dine out. On the odd occasion that we do, we like Pizza Express. They do good pizza.

PH: Froggies in Kent is one of my favourite restaurants. My favourite toppings (all on one pizza of course) are mozzarella, cream and Parma ham.

*What do you consider to be a cardinal sin in your kitchen?

MB: People coming in and making a mess. Yes, I really dislike a messy kitchen.

PH: Dirty ovens. They really, REALLY wind me up.

*What is your ultimate comfort food?

MB: I adore a lightly boiled fresh egg, served with brown toast, salted butter and a glass of wine.

PH: I love a poached egg on sourdough toast with crispy Parma ham. There’s that Parma ham again!

*What do you do to chill out?

MB: I wander off into my garden and pick sweet peas. Or something equally relaxing.

PH: I like to have a bath. That really chills me out.

*If you were a dish, what would you be?

MB: I would definitely be a leg of slow roast lamb. It’s delicious any time of the day.

PH: None of that for me, I’d be a hot dog – plain and simple!

*What did you want to be when younger?

MB: I just wanted be a better me.

PH: See, I wanted to be a fireman. I’m happy with what I’m doing right now though, so maybe it wouldn’t have been for me.

It was lovely chatting to these two brilliant chefs, whose chemistry is as wonderful in real life as it is on TV. For the next mini Q&A for a chilly Zilli treat (hint, hint) stay tuned…

RAxx

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