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Tom Kerridge: “Baldness happens. Go in with the Bic razor”

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Baldy TV pub chef Tom Kerridge chats accents, Wetherspoons and Piggate

Taste Of London: The Festive Edition is coming to London’s Tobacco Dock. Will you be handing out cocktail sausages and Quality Street to get everyone in a Christmas mood?
I love a cocktail sausage on a stick and Quality Street, especially the purple ones. Being part of the Taste Festival is a wonderful kick-off to Christmas. There’s no point in food snobbery over Christmas. It’s all about enjoying yourself.

Should we order a Christmas Day Domino’s to give our mums the 25th off?
No. You should definitely be cooking, but having fun. Do something easy that’s still a massive celebration for friends and family. Don’t order a pizza; make an effort with a big smile.

What’s the secret to the perfect roast potato? Gordon says shake them out of the window…
Don’t blanche your potatoes; boil them all the way through, then gently lift them onto a cake rack. Steam-drying helps them to go crusty when you roast them. If you want to shake them out the window like Gordon does, that’s fine. I’m not getting in the way of a three-Michelin stars chef. Just don’t drop them.

You have two Michelin stars. Why don’t you wear them on your name badge, like they used to in McDonald’s?
Because it’s something that the whole team has achieved and we’re very proud of. It’s not just a badge of honour for me.

Your pub, The Hand & Flowers, features crispy pig’s head on the menu at £12.50 for a whole pig’s head. Hasn’t supply and demand soared since Piggate?
Ha! Not that we’ve noticed. It’s not the whole head. We braise the whole head, then flake off all the meat. We season it, press it, cut it, cover it in breadcrumbs and deep fry it. It’s like a porky fish finger. It’s absolutely delicious.

Not drinking is the new rock’n’roll.

Heston took over Little Chef. What changes would you make if you were promoted to JD Wetherspoon?
To be honest, not a great deal. The Wetherspoon business model is fantastic. They’re open for breakfast, mid-morning coffee, value lunches, afternoon cake and evening meals. They do curry nights and steak nights. They’re open all day for everybody. It’s a business model that works.

You’ve said that the least-used appliance in your house is the oven. What about the hair dryer?
The hair dryer is definitely the least-used appliance in my side of the bedroom anyway. We’ve moved house and I’ve tried to take a bit more time off, so the oven comes in for more use now, although probably not as much as everybody else’s.

There’s quite a lot of baldy chefs, like you, Ainsley, Heston and Gregg, compared to very hairy ones like Worrall Thompson, the Hairy Bikers and, um, Nigella. 
Is it the stress? 

Baldness happens. Go in with the Bic razor and get rid of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a chef or not. The sweep-over look is definitely not in fashion.

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You’ve been teetotal for two years. Do you miss sherry trifle?
I’m happy to use it in cooking, but it means it doesn’t get poured into a glass and drunk. I thought the first three months were going to be hard, but it’s just a case of breaking the habit. Now I don’t miss it at all. Not drinking is the new rock’n’roll.

You got embroiled in a Twitter row with a food blogger, branding him a “bellend’ and a “dickhead”, among other things. Should this be a lesson: phones down when we eat?
Bloggers aren’t the issue. The problem is these things only get half reported. He called me a name, so I called him a name, but the newspapers only printed one side of the story, then you can’t defend yourself without it looking like a playground scrap. It was regrettable but a good learning experience. Life goes on.

People in Gloucester were saying “ennit” (as in “good up yer, ennit?”) way before the youth of today coined “innit”. Can we hold you personally responsible for the deterioration of the English language?
There’s nothing deteriorating about the language that comes out of Gloucester, or “Glawster” as we call it. We have Sainsbriz, Tescoze and Bz&Qz. The West Country is at the very forefront of modern language.

You’ve been called the best pub chef of all time.
I pay no attention to any of those things. It’s not me. It’s all about the vision and the team. People say lovely things that they don’t really mean.

And you won The Observer’s Best Food Personality Of 2015. 
That’s lovely, because it was voted for by the public.

Does that mean at the annual TV chefs’ Christmas dinner you get to sit at the head of the table?
Yes, this year I’m the one who gets to wear the Rudolph red nose and antlers.

Kerridge will be at Taste Of London: The Festive Edition at Tobacco Dock, 19-22 November; tasteoflondon.co.uk

[Credit: Andrew Hayes-Watkins]


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