Ask the Cookery Expert: Claire Thomson
Chef, cook and food writer Claire Thomson, has seen her cookery career take her across the globe, giving her an international viewpoint on food and cooking. She’s worked for many high-profile restaurants throughout her 20 years in professional kitchens and was also co-owner of the Michelin award winning Flinty Red restaurant in Bristol.
Claire has now used her technical skill and knowledge to become an influential cookery writer as she now shares her culinary expertise with thousands. With 4 cookbooks under her belt (The 5 O’ Clock Apron, The National Trust Family Cookbook , The Art of the Larder and most recently, New Kitchen Basics), Claire has also contributed widely for various food publications including The Telegraph, The Guardian, BBC Good Food, Countryfile, Olive, Smallish, Ocado and Sainsbury’s magazines.
Claire has appeared on the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, BBC Radio 4 for Woman’s Hour and Cerys Matthews BBC Radio 6. Happiest in an apron, Claire can quite literally, cook anything.
Ultimate Library asked Claire about all things food, writing and books to find out what whets her appetite in the kitchen, and she offers her tips on what makes a great food writer.
What was it that first inspired you to become a chef?
Travelling certainly shaped my passion for food and cooking. After leaving university, I travelled and worked in Australia, then South East Asia before returning home to the UK and finding work in restaurants. I wanted to be a chef, but also a food writer. Best I thought at the time, would be to get some practical experience in good restaurant kitchens and work my way up. I’ve cooked professionally now for 20 years. It’s a way of life.
What 3 books made you want to be a food writer?
Jane Grigson’s Fruit and Vegetable books, Chez Panisse cookery books and if I’m honest, Jamie Oliver’s first book, The Naked Chef. I was part of that early 2000’s energetic and young band of wannabe chefs. I thrived on all things cooking and food. I remember the first issue of OFM in the Observer and just thought, that’s what I want to be, but knew I wanted to back up any food writing I did with lots of practical experience in restaurants.
What do you think is the key ingredient for writing a good cookery book?
Authenticity and practicality. People need to be able to cook from them…. And to cook from recipes in a sensible time frame and within a sensible budget. It’s just food after all, recipes should not intimidate, but instead inspire people and spark confidence and a CAN DO attitude.
Can you think of a culinary experience when travelling that inspired any of your recipes?
I spent some time in a cookery school over in Chengdu, central China. There, the chef’s knife skills were particularly impressive. I’ve lived and travelled in many places throughout the world, travel would not be the thrill it is if not for food. Wherever I have travelled, I always always first located the local market and then found the chefs and cooks happy to impart knowledge. Language doesn’t seem to ever be too much of a barrier in food and cooking, you can always learn a skill or recipe from a chef or cook who wants to show you. You can never stop learning as a chef, the language of food and cooking is endless.
If you could only use one cookbook for the rest of your life which one would it be?
Without a doubt, Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book. It is endlessly useful and despite its age, evergreen. I use it throughout the year and often.
A huge thank you to Claire for offering us her insights into the world of food, as well as sharing her favourite cookery books with us. Her culinary expertise has been invaluable this month – if you want to follow Claire, you can find her on Twitter and Instagram @5oclockapron.