Drawing: Nigel Slater

Autographed drawing of Chef Nigel Slater

I finally got to meet another culinary hero of mine last week. Nigel Slater was at The Other Palace theatre for the West End premiere of the sage adaption of TOAST, the comedy-drama, based on his best-selling , award-winning autobiography ‘Toast: The Story of a Boy’s Hunger.’ The extraordinary story of a childhood revealed through food was also made into a successful film, featuring Helena Bonham Carter in 2010.

One of Britain’s foremost gastronomic writers, Nigel is famous for his stripped-back recipes, which show how easy it is to make delicious meals from just a few high-quality ingredients. The play was commissioned in 2018 by The Lowry in Manchester, where it had a sell-out run at the Week 53 Festival. Written by Henry Filoux-Bennett, the production moved to the Edinburgh Fringe, embarking on a UK National tour, before its London transfer.

I met Nigel at the theatre, where he very kindly signed my sketch, before the press night performance. I’ve always admired Nigel’s handwriting, which features in many of his TV shows, so was able to satisfy both culinary and calligraphic obsessions. I later discovered, not only was it his birthday, (one day before mine) but we are the same age, so a belated many happy returns.

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The 2019 Laurence Olivier Awards – a selection of six winners

The 2019 Laurence Olivier Awards, recognising excellence in London theatre was held last Sunday at the Royal Albert Hall. Here’s a 4B pencil tribute to a selection of six winners who all signed their respective sketches over the past year.

Sharon D. Clarke, Best Actress in a Musical for her title role in CAROLINE, OR CHANGE at the Playhouse Theatre, signed in person at the theatre last December.

Autographed drawing of Sharon D Clarke in Caroline, Or Change at the Playhouse Theatre on London's West End

Patti LuPone, Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical for her portrayal of Joanne in Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY at the Gielgud Theatre, signed at the stage door in October last year.

Autographed drawing of actress Patti LuPone

Patsy Ferran, Best Actress for SUMMER AND SMOKE, signed at the Duke of York’s Theatre on 18 December 2018, following a West End transfer after a sold-out run at the Almeida Theatre.

Autographed drawing of Patsy Ferran and Matthew Needham in Summer and Smoke at the Duke of York's Theatre on London's West End

Kyle Soller, Best Actor for his role as Eric Glass in the Young Vic’s two-part epic, THE INHERITANCE at the Noel Coward Theatre, signed at the stage door in January this year.

Autographed drawing of Kyle SOller and Andrew Burnap in The Inheritance at the Noel Coward Theatre on London's West End

Kobna Holbrook-Smith, Best Actor in a Musical for his role as Ike Turner, in TINA,THE MUSICAL, signed at the Aldwych Theatre’s stage door late last year.

Autographed drawing of Kobna Holdbrook-Smith in Tina The Musical at the Aldwych Theatre on London's West End

Chris Walley, Best Actor in a Supporting Role for playing the teenager Davey in THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE, also signed at the Noel Coward stage door last summer.

Autographed drawing of Chris Walley in The Lieutenant of Inishmore at the Noel Coward Theatre on London's West End

Drawing: David Suchet, Brendan Coyle, Adrian Lukis and Sara Stewart in The Price

Autographed drawing of David Suchet, Brendan Coyle, Adrian Luke's and Sara Stewart in The Price at Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End

Arthur Miller’s final masterpiece, THE PRICE premiered on Broadway at the Morosco Theatre in the winter of 1968. The play about family dynamics, the price of furniture and the price of one’s decisions has had a number of revivals, including Jonathan Church’s ‘rich and powerful’ 50th anniversary production at the Theatre Royal Bath last summer, which transferred to the Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End this February with the same cast.

Two estranged brothers meet for the first time in sixteen years to sell the family furniture stored in a New York attic. Victor Franz (Brendan Coyle), a New York cop, nearing retirement and his brother Walter (Adrian Lukis), a successful surgeon learn the cost of dividing the family spoils. They are joined by Victor’s alcohol-dependent wife Esther (Sara Stewart) and a silver-tongued 89 year-old furniture dealer, Gregory Solomon (David Suchet) who is asked to access and bid for the family heirlooms. The Guardian’s Michael Billington summed up the critical response by simply saying it is a “superbly acted production.”

Special mention has been made of David’s tragicomic tour de force, with Dominic Maxwell writing in his review for the Times, that the show is “blessed by one truly great star turn. David Suchet has an almost indecent amount of fun as Gregory Solomon”.  Both David and Adrian have been nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Olivier Awards respectively, at this weekend’s ceremony.

Adrian and Sara signed my montage sketch for me in person at the stage door prior to Saturday’s matinee a couple of weeks ago, but I missed David and Brendan, so left it for them at the theatre. It was returned TTM (Through The Mail) as we say in the collecting business, graphed and dedicated.

Drawing: Dario Cecchini

Autographed drawing of Chef Dario Cecchini

One of life’s little pleasures is David Gelb’s Netflix series, CHEF’S TABLE. It’s part of my overall vice for watching cooking shows, replacing a gap in my vocational achievements. The latest series was released this February with four episodes. My favourite was about Dario Cecchini, the charismatic Tuscan butcher and celebrity showman. In the small village of Panzano in the Chianti region off Italy, where Dario grew up, his father ran the local butcher shop, which had been in the family for eight generations, spanning 250 years. Dario, however did not want to be a butcher. He wanted to be a vet. After his mother passed away from cancer, Dario moved to Pisa to study veterinarian science, but he had to cut his studies short and return home to look after his ailing father, who also died leaving Dario no option but to take over the family business.

He said, “I won’t be the one to save the animal, I will be the one who kills the animal.” Even though he grew up in a butcher’s family he knew nothing of the it. He contacted Orlando, his father’s meat adviser and confidente, who took him to many farms and introduced Dario in his philosophy, “When an animal is born, we must try to give it the best life and when the animal dies by our hand we must respect the gift of the animal.”

Dario customers just wanted steaks and fillets, he but wanted to use all the animal, including the ‘less noble’ parts, as he puts it, from ‘nose-to-tail.’ All parts of the animal are useful if butchered and cooked in the appropriate way. Dario says it’s a combination of knowledge and a consciousness respect for the animal. In order to persuade his customers of this, he starting cooking to show how this could be done, establishing ‘Ristorante Soloccia’ across the street from his shop “I am not a cook. I am a butcher who cooks.”

He relies on instinct and keeping things simple and a glass of red wine that helps the process. It became such a huge success that a second ‘meat-centric’ restaurant Officina Della Bistecca was opened next door. The boy who wanted to be a vet had become the most famous butcher in the world.

Combining another vice, the need to scribble, I did this quick sketch and sent it to Dario to sign, which he did, appropriately in a big red marker, cleverly adapting the philosophical phrase ‘carpe diem’ to ‘carne (meat) diem’.