The Wordrobe’s editor Sophie Ritchie talks Tokyo tastebud trips with MasterChef winner and award-winning author Tim Anderson
What inspired you to become a chef?
After living there for two years, I had come to love the food of Kyushu, in the south of Japan.
This was Japanese food that had been deeply affected by a history of international exchange, with influences from Korea, China, Portugal, the Netherlands and the US, among others.
I had also come to love the more informal, more raucous side of Japanese dining like that which you’d find at izakaya, street stalls, festivals, noodle shops, or just people’s homes. This kind of food was extremely hard to come by in London when I moved here in 2008. So, I became a chef to try and make some of it here myself.
Where did you train? Tell us more about your culinary background…
I am not a trained chef, and pretty much everything I’ve ever made has come from reading books, watching videos, and a hell of a lot of trial and error.
I am confident in my ability to make six or seven specific dishes at this point. With regards to everything else I still consider myself quite an amateur.
What’s your favourite winter dish?
Ramen, but that is my favourite dish almost anytime. I also love pasta shells stuffed with spinach and ricotta, cooked in a rich tomato sauce.
What inspired your latest book, Tokyo Stories? Tell us more about it.
Tokyo Stories came about from discussions I was having with my editor on Japaneasy, Kate Pollard. We wanted to do a follow-up Japanese book that was different and took a deeper dive but was still accessible.
I think Tokyo is increasingly a bucket list travel destination for a lot of people, especially in the lead-up to the Olympics this year, and I myself absolutely love Tokyo.
So we figured it would be a great framing device for a new collection of recipes which could include classic, iconic dishes of Japanese cuisine but also some lesser known local specialities.
What does hospitality mean to you?
Giving freely and with great enthusiasm. Restaurants very, very rarely provide real hospitality because they have to make money.
Capitalism is at odds with true hospitality. Don’t get me wrong, restaurants can be wonderful and can make you feel like a king – but you still have to pay for it.
Name your three favourite restaurants.
Som Saa and Hawksmoor in London and Träkol in Gateshead.
What advice would you offer to aspiring chefs?
Figure out exactly what food makes you happy, then learn to cook that specific food. You don’t need to do everything. Just do a few things really well.
What do you think will be 2020’s biggest food trend?
Ritter Sport. Everybody loves Ritter Sport. It’s time it had its moment.
Finally, do you have a favourite foodie destination?
Besides Japan, I’ve never been so impressed with the food as I was in San Sebastian in Spain. Just such delicious food, and so much of it.
Tokyo Stories by Tim Anderson is published by Hardie Grant – £26. Tokyo Stories won a Special Commendation at the André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards 2019
Founded in 1978, the André Simon Food & Drink Book Awards are the only awards in the UK to exclusively recognise the achievements of food and drink writers and are the longest continuous running awards of their kind.
The first two awards were given to Elizabeth David and Rosemary Hume for their outstanding contribution in the fields of food and cooking. Other winners include Michel Roux, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Nigel Slater and Rick Stein. www.andresimon.co.uk