Drawing: Cuba Gooding Jr in Chicago

Autographed drawing of Cuba Gooding Jr in Chicago at the Phoenix Theatre on London's West End

Cuba Gooding Jr’s portrayal of the arrogant, yet charismatic football player Rod Tidwell in Cameron Crowe’s blockbuster sports comedy JERRY MAGUIRE won him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1996. This breakthrough role originated the famous phrase,”Show me the money!” that still resonates today. This month he made his West End stage debut as the hotshot lawyer Billy Flynn in the 21st Anniversary revival of the musical CHICAGO at the Phoenix Theatre.

After being told by security that Cuba was resting between the matinee and evening performances last Saturday, he suddenly appeared at the stage door in his dressing gown to meet the surprised fans. When I asked him to to sign my sketch ‘To Mark’ he said “Oh Mark that’s my middle name, did you know that? I didn’t but I do know so I was confident he could spell it on the dedication.

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Drawing: Tom Kerridge

Autographed drawing of chef Tom Kerridge

Tom Kerridge doesn’t think of himself as a ‘Michelin-star kind of guy,’ but he is… well he has two of them, so technically he’s a Michelin-stars kinda guy. The very popular TV chef, who describes himself as ‘big, bald and easily distracted,’ and his sculptor wife Beth opened their gastropub ‘The Hand & Flowers’ in the Buckinghamshire town of Marlow on the river Thames thirty miles west of London in 2005. Within a year it had won its first Michelin, followed by a second, becoming the first pub to achieve the accolade.

Tom’s philosophy is based on the premises that food brings people together. His French, British fusion dishes are ‘sophisticated yet familar’. ‘I don’t go in for that ‘temple of gastronomy’ thing,” he says, “I just want people to have a nice time.” His signature dish is a take on the traditional hog roast, cooking pork belly in a Bain-Marie, wrapped in skin and roasted, accompanied by the stuffed pig’s trotters. Yum.

I sent this sketch to The Hand & Flowers for Tom to sign, which he did and returned immediately. Star.

Drawing: Jennifer Saunders in Lady Windermere’s Fan

Autographed drawing of Jennifer Saunders in Lady Windermere's Fan at the Vaudeville Theatre on London's West End

After a 20 year wait, Jennifer Saunders has returned to the West End, this time as the imposing Duchess of Berwick in Kathy Burke’s production of Oscar Wilde’s LADY WINDERMERE’S FAN at the Vaudeville Theatre.

One of the most influential women in British television comedy, Jennifer kept to prominence as Vyvyan in THE YOUNG ONES and, with her comedy partner Dawn French, launched the sketch show FRENCH AND SAUNDERS in 1987, which became staple BBC viewing through to 2007. Let’s not forget the champagne-quaffing PR Edina Monsoon opposite Joanna Lumley in ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, among a raft of other memorable characters and appearances, collecting a truck-load of accolades along the way.

Her current stage performance has garnered equal plaudits, The Guardian’s Lyn Gardner calling her portrayal, “a monstrous star turn,” as “A Duchess with a walking stick like a taser and a hat like a homunculus.”

The two things Jennifer and I have in common is our age and being at the same stage door at the same time after Saturday’s matinee, where I asked her to sign this sketch. “Well done you,” she said, which is always a good sign.

Drawing: Michel Roux Jr.

Autographed drawing of Chef Michel Roux Jr

My latest favourite culinary wizard is two-star Michelin chef Michel Roux Jr, owner and Chef Patron of one of London’s finest restaurants, ‘La Gavroche’ (named after a character in Victor Hugo’s LES MISERABLES) in Mayfair. Opened in 1967 by Michel’s father Albert and his uncle Michel Snr, it was the first UK restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star in 1974 and then a second, three years later. Michel Jr grew up in the kitchen, where he developed and refined his cooking skills, before embarking on his culinary journey that took him to France and around a number of the established restaurants in London, eventually returning to ‘La Gavroche’ to take over in 1991.

Other notable chefs who have graced the Gavroche kitchen are Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsey and Marcus Wareing. Specialising in the classical foundations of French cooking, with a mixture of contemporary meals, some of the notable dishes include, the ‘Soufflé Suissesse (cheese soufflé baked on double cream), Omlette Rothschild and Le Caneton Gavroche (whole duck in a light consommé).

The restaurant, which has a three-month advance reservation list, gained some notoriety, with an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for serving the most expensive meal per head when three diners spent $20,945 on one meal… admittedly $19,248 was for six bottles of wine.

Michel has appeared in a variety of TV cooking shows, the latest as one of the co-presenters of SATURDAY KITCHEN since James Martin left in 2016. I dropped this sketch in to ‘La Gavroche’ for Michel to sign, which he kindly did.

Drawing: Ken Hom

Autographed sketch of Chef Ken Hom

Appropriately, as the Chinese New Year is ushered in, my drawing of popular TV Chef Ken Hom arrived back, signed with a complimentary card attached wishing me New Years greetings. Widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest authorities on Oriental cooking, Ken is a regular on our TV screens.

Born in Tucson to Chinese parents he grew up in Chicago. He didn’t find the American food agreeable so his mother would send him off to school with a flask of hot rice and stir-fried vegetables.

At the age of 11 he started working in his uncle’s restaurant and ran cooking lessons in his native Chinese cuisine to pay for his university fees when he moved to California, eventually swaping his history studies to follow his heart at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Ken’s British connection came in 1982, when he was chosen, after a two-year global search for the BBC’s new Chinese cooking series.

Numerous programmes, books and accolades have followed since. He opened MEE at the Belmont Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, the city’s first luxury pan-Asian restaurant, winning a Michelin star in it’s first year. Ken divides his time as a global culinary citizen between residences in France and Thailand, but is a frequent visitor to the UK where he has a number of business interests including his wok empire.

I sent this drawing to his Hampshire headquarters, managing to coincide with one of visits.

Drawing: Graham Kerr, The Galloping Gourmet

Autographed drawing of chef Graham Kerr in The Galloping Gourmet

My lifelong interest in TV cooking shows began way back in the sixties when television was, like me, in its infancy in New Zealand. The very first celebrity chef was Graham Kerr, who had moved to the Antipodes from London to take up a role as the chief catering adviser for the Royal NZ Airforce. When ‘the box’ was introduced in 1960, he first appeared on a programme called EGGS WITH FLIGHT LIEUTENANT KERR before it evolved into the popular ENTERTAINING WITH KERR, which I watched religiously, before attempting to channel Graham and his culinary creations in the family kitchen, much to my mother’s alarm, who advised me to draw instead.

Graham later moved to Australia, then Canada, where he became a global superstar with the show THE GALLOPING GOURMET, one of the most viewed cooking programmes on the planet, earning two Emmy nominations. The term ‘Galloping Gourmet’ originated from a book, co-authored with wine expert Len Evans in 1967, when they completed a 35-day trek around the world’s finest restaurants.

When I experienced another burst of appetite for celebrity chefs – in a sketching sense, not cannibalistic – earlier this year, resulting in a new batch of renderings being produced of my favourite cooking people, I just had to include Graham. Now, aged 84, he has retired and living in Washington State on America’s Pacific Northwest. I sent him this sketch, which he immediately signed and returned, much to my delight.

Drawing: John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby in Midsomer Murders

Autographed drawing of John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby in Midsomer Murders

One of my absolute favourite actors is John Nettles, who I have had the pleasure of meeting at a couple of Theatre Press nights in London over the past decade. If his role as Jim Bergerac in the Jersey-based TV crime drama BERGERAC made him a household name in the UK in the 1980’s, his follow-up policeman DCI Tom Barnaby in the murder, mystery series MIDSOMER MURDERS made him a global household name.

After his final appearance in February 2011 he had the recurring role of Ray Penvenen in the second series of POLDARK. I must say Midsomer’s hasn’t been the same since he left but all the reruns have been welcomed.

Now I did this portrait of John as Tom, but how to get it signed? Then I discovered he was a guest at the Carols by Candlelight fundraiser for the Royal Brompton Hospital at St Luke’s in Chelsea just before Christmas. So I left it with the very friendly folk at the church with a stamped envelope and, to my delight, it arrived back last week with an immaculate autograph and dedication.

Drawing: Robert Glenister and Kris Marshall in Glengarry Glen Ross

Autographed drawing of Robert Glenister and Kris Marshall in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Playhouse Theatre, London

Popular British TV stars Robert Glenister and Kris Marshall join Christian Slater in the first major revival in nearly a decade of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS at London’s Playhouse theatre. Set in the cut-throat world of a Chicago real-estate office, it’s a fast talking, expletive-filled depiction of sleazy salesmen scrapping it out. Robert plays the ‘spitting, hissing’, angry Moss and Kris is the uptight office manager, Williamson. I met both actors after last Saturday nights performance at the stage door, where they signed my sketch for me.

Drawing: Amber Riley in Dreamgirls

Autographed drawing of Amber Riley in Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre on London's West End

American actress and singer Amber Riley completed her West End debut in the hit musical DREAMGIRLS at London’s Savoy theatre last Saturday night. After receiving critical acclaim for her portrayal of lead Effie White, Amber won this year’s Olivier Award for Best actress in a Musical. The thirty-one year-old is best known for her TV role as Mercedes Jones on the Fox comedy-drama series GLEE for which she won a Screen Actors Guild Award. She also won season 17 of DANCING WITH THE STARS in 2013 and has been nominated for the Grammy three times. It took me a few attempts to get this drawing signed. For one reason or another I keep missing Amber at the stage door, but finally, on the last night after her final performance I got the graph.

Drawing: Bryan Cranston in Network

Autographed Drawing of Bryan Cranston in "Network" at the National Theatre, Lyttelton Theatre in London 2017

Bryan Cranston made his London stage debut as Howard Beale, the mad prophet of the airways to rave reviews in NETWORK on the Lyttelton boards at the National Theatre this month.

Based on Paddy Chayefsky’s brilliant script for the Oscar winning 1976 film, Bryan plays the aging news anchor who threatens to kill himself on live TV, becoming an instant crazed celebrity guru yelling the iconic slogan, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

Bryan won a Tony for his portrayal of Lyndon B. Johnson in ALL THE WAY on Broadway and is the winner of six Emmys and 2 Golden Globe Awards for his celebrated role as Walter White, the chemistry-teacher-turned-drug-lord in the hit television show BREAKING BAD. He also earned BAFTA and Oscar nominations for TRUMBO in 2015.

Bryan signed my sketch at the National Theatre stage door last week.