Stirring Words


20 Questions: Kate Hawkings 20 Questions: Kate Hawkings

Kate Hawkings has written on food, travel and interiors for publications including the Guardian, Independent, Telegraph, Sunday Times, Elle Deco, Food & Travel and The Rough Guides. Kate also does occasional restaurant consultancy work  and is a Workshops Coordinator for the Guild of Food Writers. She can be contacted at



1 How did you become a food writer?
Because of Matthew Fort. I submitted a piece to the Independent that I’d written on spec about Christmas in Togo and was astonished when they published it – and paid me £250. The Sunday Times then commissioned a piece about St Helena/Tristan da Cunha when I was there in 1989/90. I came back to Bristol penniless and lucked out by getting a job at Barny Haughton’s Rocinantes – the hippest restaurant in town. They also happened to serve brilliant food, mostly organic – but we never used the term publicly because in those days it conjured up images of knitted brown rice and woven tofu. One of my customers was an interiors photographer looking for a writer – I stepped into the breach on my days off. I also wrote occasional trivial food-related pieces for local press but was always dragged back by the call of the apron. I met Matthew Fort when he judged at the Organic Food Awards, held at Rocinantes in its early years. I was Mrs Clipboard for OFA for more than a decade, and Matthew Fort was a stalwart judge of Sausages category.

2 What are your three favourite cookery books?
Impossible question! Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s The River Cottage Meat Book; Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail Eating; Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cookbook.

3 What is your earliest food memory?
Picking peas and hiding them in my knickers in my father’s heavenly kitchen garden when I was three. I ate them in bed on summer evenings when I was outraged at being expected to sleep when it was still light. Hid the pods in my socks and disposed of them discreetly at end of garden next day.

4 What is your favourite dish?
Foie gras with something appley and a glass of Sauternes.

5 What is your favourite national cuisine?
Apart from the best of current British? Lebanon/Middle Eastern.

6 What is your favourite restaurant?
Flinty Red, Bristol; Café Anglais, London (for room and service); Moro, London (for food)

7 Where did you eat your most memorable meal?
The Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in 1994/5. I was taken by Barny H with four others from Rocinantes for a chef’s leaving lunch (those were the days). Tomato essence soup; foie gras with Muscat grapes; sea trout with pastis-based sauce; can’t remember pudding but think a brûlée was involved; was too smitten by waiter to remember name of cheese but it was soft and French; coffee in garden with Raymond showing us around veg patch. Fond memories of one of the remaining chefs spending following weeks trying to recreate RB’s tomato essence at Rocinantes. He got pretty close; now a high flyer in Sydney, I’ve heard.

8 What is your favourite kitchen gadget?
Hand blender/mini food processor

9 What is the most useless kitchen gadget you’ve ever encountered?
Melon baller

10 What is your favourite food destination? (City or country)
London – in reality; Lebanon – in my dreams

11 What is your favourite comfort food when you are on your own?
Wholemeal toast, cold unsalted butter, chopped red chilli, Maldon salt.

12 What is the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?
Rotten shark in Iceland. Was morally (and professionally) obliged to eat everything offered. Large handbag and judicious use of napkins came in very handy. 

13 Are there any foods you would never eat?
Rotten shark; tripe.

14 What is the worst food trend of the moment?
Jenga chips – crisp:fluff ratio is always wrong, wrong, wrong.

15 What word would you most like to see banned from food writing?

16 What is your guiltiest food pleasure?
Heinz salad cream; Maynard’s Sours.

17 The professional achievement I am proudest of is…
My Guardian column – monthly for 9 months in 2004. I am not proud of the writing, just of being allowed to witter in the national press about whatever I’d been eating.

18 If you were in charge of governmental food policy, the first thing you would do is…
Improve food in hospitals. It’s not just about getting the right nutrients, it’s about satisfying all the senses and thus aiding recovery. Sick people need to eat – their immune systems depend on good nutrition – but often have poor appetites. Hospital food is horrifyingly unappetising and nutritionally dubious. I speak from experience – am quite convinced that my husband’s relatively speedy recovery from brain injury was in part due to my constant supply of decent grub. Food on offer at hosp was unspeakably bad. Food is medicine; I’m with Hippocrates on this one.   

19 If you had to stop eating meat, how would you cope?
Badly, but would embrace the cheese/egg/lentil world with open arms and avoid all forms of soya-based pastiches. If I had good tomatoes, good bread, good potatoes, onions, salt and chillies I’d be fine, but would go to bed hoping to dream of bloody steaks, quails, pork with crackling and the pickings from last night’s roast chicken. Wouldn’t miss fish (except oysters), come to think of it.

20 What would be your last meal, if you could choose it?
Oysters; foie gras (as above); Flinty Red’s chestnut ravioli; Montgomery Cheddar; Rick Stein’s pannacotta with rhubarb.



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