We Grill: Simon Rimmer
Simon Rimmer, 50, is the TV chef and co-presenter of Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. Married to Ali, with a daughter Florence, 16 and son Hamish, 10, he owns the restaurant Greens, in Manchester, and Earle in Cheshire and has released four cookery books.
You’re a self-taught chef, with a degree in fashion and textiles, so how did that come about?
I’ve always been interested in food and when I was studying at Leicester University I did the usual part-time jobs in bars and restaurants, and I loved the buzz and atmosphere. In the back of my mind I always fancied opening a restaurant.
What inspired you to open your first vegetarian restaurant Greens in 1990?
I’m not vegetarian but it already existed as a vegetarian cafe in West Disbury, Manchester, so me and my business partner Simon Connelly decided to buy it and run it as a restaurant. We were both naive and thought we’d have enough money to employ a chef while we worked front of house – chatting up girls! But when financial reality hit, me and Simon tossed a coin for which one of us would be in the kitchen – and I lost! But it turned out to be the best thing that happened to me. Armed with two cook books I had no idea what I was doing. But the obsessive nature in me drove me not merely to learn how to cook but to learn everything I could about the art and science of cookery. I hung out at markets, talked to traders, and tasted products. I learnt about ingredients and seasonal produce, and started to create dishes with flavours and food I wanted to eat. Soon, it became a place that not only vegetarians ate at but somewhere that produced good food, and now 70% of our customers are carnivores.
Indian. I remember tasting my first curry when I was 15 or 16 and I loved it. I still find it exciting to eat today.
Earliest food memory?
My nan’s apple pie. I must have been about six years old, and she was famous for it. Sadly, I never got the recipe from her but it still makes my mouth water when I think about it.
You’re a Liverpool fan. So, what is your biggest passion – food or football?
I’d have to say both. I can’t chose as I actually think about them equally.
Is it more nerve racking working in a busy, stressful kitchen of a restaurant or cooking in front of cameras?
Without a doubt a kitchen! Preparing meals for 120 people is far more stressful than cooking in front of cameras.
What’s the worst cooking crisis you’ve had on air?
I’ve had many but the worst one was when we had actor and comedian Ricky Gervais as a guest on the show. I didn’t realise it but the oven wasn’t working. I’d cooked seabass baked in salt but when I brought it out of the oven for Ricky to try it was freezing cold
What’s your ideal brunch and who would be your number one celebrity to serve it to?
It would be my cottage cheese and blueberry pancake with bacon, eggs and maple syrup, and I’d serve it to Kenny Dalglish.
What other chefs inspire you?
Rick Stein, Tom Kerridge and Ken Hom to name a few.
What’s the perfect Northern dish? Why?
Scouse. It’s basically a stew with lamb or beef.
What ingredients/products do you like to use at this time of the year?
This is a tough time of the year, so I tend to turn exotic and love using pineapple as it’s a great source of sweetness to use in a dish, such as sweet and sour pork and chicken livers with caramel pineapple.
What’s your favourite restaurant in the UK?
I love the Three Fishes in Mitton, Lancashire, the Social Eating House in London and my local curry house, Sheraker in Chorlton, Manchester.