5 Minutes With: Matt Wilkinson

Where did you first learn to cook?
It all started with me growing up in a pub. I wanted to be the youngest publican around but on realising I wasn’t old enough to drink (let alone own a pub and have a license), I went to college to study Hospitality Management. 

Honestly I hated cooking, but my tutor John Stevenson saw something in me and sent me to Warren House (which is on the outskirts of London) for a two-week placement back in 1997. This is where I first worked under Michael Taylor who would become a mentor to me. My second day there they offered me a job and off I went. Michael really took me under his wing, sent me to the fish markets/butchers/other restaurants to cook and soak up as much knowledge on cooking as I could. He started a fire for my love of eating, making and understanding food, to respect the ingredients, have knowledge of how they grow and different ways to cook them but, most importantly, to have fun whilst I am doing it.

What is always in your pantry/fridge?
Same as anyone really. I have naff stuff like Happy Cow cheese (I love them), organic milk & baked beans. The things that I think really elevate dishes that we have always at hand: a bunch of spices, little pickled cucumbers, capers, anchovies and I have about seven different vinegars too. I also love using soy sauce and have a few different Japanese organic varieties which I source from a friend in Japan.

Go-to easy weeknight meal?
I love fried rice and I reckon it’s a brilliant way to use up leftovers. There’s a stir-fried pork and rice dish that’s in my third book ‘Mr. and Mrs Wilkinson’s How It Is At Home’ that takes 20 minutes to make. To my bowl I add some really bloody hot chilli paste that my friend makes. 

Favourite meal to cook for a dinner party?
My second book Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads is what you would eat if you came round or we went to a dinner party and had to bring a plate. I love a table full of different bits to share. Think grilled peach and chicken salad, beans in black bean dressing served with rare roasted beef or some pickled radishes with a hint of chilli. Also I do love cooking a big bowl of mussels with bread and good butter with say a salad of iceberg lettuce with this avocado dressing I make, delicious.

Cheese or chocolate?
Oooh... Happy Cow all the way. I love cheese and recently I have started to go off chocolate, give me a good English Red Leicester or a crumbly Wensleydale or Holy Goat La Luna or the Tarwin river blue is delicious. So I guess it would have to be cheese then, haha. 

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