Q&A: Sally Clarke

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Sally Clarke, restaurateur and food writer


The cookbook that has most influenced your cooking
Elizabeth David – all her books but especially French Country Cooking and Summer Cooking, which I steadily worked my way through from the age of about 11. I still have the original copies which my mother gave me from her shelves all those years ago

Most memorable food you ate in childhood
Embarrassed to say it was an overly sweet, overly coloured ice cream cake which a local bakery specialised in for birthdays and celebrations. I remember looking forward to this each year from the age of four. Other than that it was my mother’s chicken pilaf made with Uncle Bens rice and a Knorr chicken stock cube – delicious!

Your favourite food shop
Violet Cakes, Wilton Way, London SW1 – the perfect place for a sunny breakfast or Leila’s shop in Arnold Circus in Shoreditch (which I have never been to because it is always closed when I try!) but I know I would love it!

Most memorable meal in  film/literature/painting
The scene in Tous les Matins du Monde where the character Monsieur de Sainte Colombe plays the viola da gamba whilst mourning his late wife, imagining that she is still with him. The cone-shaped gaufrettes lying on the table are miraculously broken whilst he is playing, as if she had joined him and shared in the meal

 Your worst kitchen disaster
In the late 1980s – making roasted red pepper pasta ribbons at the restaurant in the days when we offered ‘no choice’. Sadly it all disintegrated into the pot as we cooked it. We need to bin the lot!  We must have served an alternative dish that night but I have no recollection at all what it would have been…

The first thing you taught your child to cook
Mayonnaise and pizza

What would you like your final meal to be?
Crab salad, roast chicken and a piece of fruit – type depending on the season

What is your secret talent (in or out of the kitchen)?

I love to sing (ish). A few years ago, I passed my Grade 1 singing exam – with distinction – however I failed my audition of the Bach Choir as I am unable to read music well enough

What did you eat for breakfast today?
I do not have breakfast until Sunday

Which seasonal food do you most look forward to?
Whatever whenever. Today apricots, in September tomatoes, in January rhubarb

Over-rated/ under-rated food/seasoning/gadget
Over-rated: a paco-jet
Under-rated: a wooden spoon

Sally Clarke is one of Britain’s most acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs. Trained in Paris and London and inspired by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in California, she has developed her own disarmingly simple style. Clarke’s, her legendary Notting Hill restaurant opened in 1985 (http://www.sallyclarke.com/)

Sally Clarke will be appearing on the Flower and Fodder stage at this year’s Port Eliot Festival (28-31 July), alongside the likes of Nathan Outlaw, Blanche Vaughan, Madeleine Shaw, Russell Norman, Alastair Little, Peter Gordon, Claire Ptak and Rose Prince,  www.porteliotfestival.com