My ritual Sunday diet of TV cuisine shows always includes an ample helping of the UK’s most popular cooking duo, Dave Myers and Si King, aka the Hairy Bikers. The exuberant, down-to-earth chefs have had a string of hit television shows over the past twenty years, involving a mixture of cooking and travelogue, creating their own fresh take on culinary classics.
They have now taken to the road on a nationwide tour. AN EVENING WITH THE HAIRY BIKERS is described as an “epic night of cooking and conversation’. The pair rocked up to the iconic London Palladium on Saturday for their only gig in the capital. Luckily I noticed them from my vantage point across the road where I was watching a Six Nations rugby match and partaking of the local hospitality. I quickly raced across to catch them.
After eventually sorting a car park outside the stage door and posing for the obligatory selfies with a few passers-by I asked them to sign my sketch. “Is that a kiwi accent?” asked Si. “Guilty,” I said. That’s why I often put a little stick-note on the drawing ‘To Mark’ to avoid getting ‘Mack’ or ‘Mike’ or some other deviation. But he was conversant with the Antipodean tongue and inscribed correctly.
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.
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.
Combining two of my vices – drawing and watching cooking programmes on TV – I decided to draw a few of my favourite celebrity chefs. Rick Stein was the first. I sent this sketch to him at his flagship, The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow on the northern Cornish Coast and he sent it back quicker than you could boil a lobster.
He’s been on our TV screens for the past two decades with that happy laid-back demeanour. He also sells seafood by the seashore, and more. His empire includes The Seafood Restaurant, S Petroc’s Bistro, Rick Stein’s Café, Stein’s Fish & Chips, a cookery school, accommodation, a gift shop, a deli, a patisserie, a fishmongers and The Cornish Arms pub in nearby St Merryn… and no Rick Stein at Bannisters in Mollymook in NSW, Australia.
Rick has to be credited for single-handedly reviving the British seafood industry. Padstow is now a popular tourist destination. His impact on the local econmy has led some to call the once sleepy Cornish fishing village ‘Padstein’.