june foodie profile: hilary armstrong
as you’ll know, this year i want to make space on my blog to explore the huge range of food-related careers that exist and how they affect the way that people cook and eat, something which i find fascinating and i hope you’ll enjoy too.
this month we’re hearing from hilary armstrong, who is a freelance food and restaurant writer.
1. what is your food job?
former features editor of restaurant magazine turned freelance food and restaurant writer. i have contributed to olive, the sunday times, the guardian, arena and the london lite among others.
2. what are the best and worst bits about it?
the best bit is easy – i get to eat out very regularly, seeing all the new restaurant openings and travelling abroad for more of the same. i do know how lucky i am. plus, on the whole, restaurant people are lovely people who tend to be great fun, big eaters and big drinkers so it’s rarely boring.
the worst bits are the hangovers and weight gain. also the competition to get in (and stay in) the media is fierce.
3. has your job affected how you cook and eat?
definitely. i don’t cook much at home because i eat too much the rest of the time. when i do cook, it’s simple, ingredient-driven stuff. my job has changed what i choose to eat as well because i am always on the look out for a new thing to try (and a new feature to write). i definitely eat in better though not necessarily more expensive restaurants than i used to and i don’t waste my time and money on crappy restaurants.
4. how would you sum up your approach to food?
i don’t know about my approach to my food but in terms of my approach to my job i think of myself as ‘into restaurants’ more than ‘into food’.
5. what has been your most memorable meal?
there are too many… my first trip to st john (chitterlings and chips)… my first mid-90s ‘modern european’ meal when i moved to london (so thrilling!) at euphorium in islington when jeremy lee (now at blueprint café) was there... my first ultra-posh paris restaurant le meurice... i have also had some anthony bourdain style extreme food experiences (snake, buffalo bollocks etc) but as i say i’m more about the restaurants than the food.
6. what has been your most disappointing meal?
locanda locatelli. it wasn’t dreadful or anything but i expected it to knock the river café into a cocked hat and it didn’t.
7. do you have any ‘old favourite’ restaurant choices for a casual meal and a special meal?
for special meals my number one is the river café and i won’t hear a word against it. i also like the wolseley and scott’s for fancy nights out and a bit of glitz. for casual meals i currently favour sakana tei on maddox street in mayfair for sushi.
8. what is your favourite dish to eat in a restaurant?
pâte de foie gras.
9. do you have a guilty pleasure when eating out?
10. do you prefer eating in or eating out?
that’s easy - eating out. for the fun of dressing up, the anticipation and the nice unchipped stemware.
11. which food would you rather eat at home?
12. do you enjoy cooking?
only for my husband, otherwise i can’t handle the pressure as i feel i should be better at it than i am, because of my job.
13. what is the first thing you remember cooking?
something i called ‘oaty cakes’ but which were essentially anzac biscuits.
14. what inspired your love of food?
sunday supplements in the 80s and 90s. i loved reading all about nouvelle cuisine, harvey’s, alastair little, marco pierre white etc.
15. do you have any food heroes?
alastair little - he’s lancastrian, got great taste and is an excellent writer.
16. what annoys you about food culture in britain?
tv chefs - what a bunch of idiots. most (not all) of their restaurants are crap and it upsets me to think of all those mums and grannies coming down to london to eat stack and drizzle nonsense when they could go somewhere good instead.
17. what is the perfect foodie gift?
18. what is your unfulfilled foodie ambition?
i can’t believe i’ve never tried white truffles.