25 July 2014

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Starter for 10: interview with Anna Hansen


The_Modern_Pnatry_Anna_Hansen.jpgAnna Hansen opened The Providores with Peter Gordon in 2001 before setting up on her own with The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell in 2008. She tells Square Meal the truth about fusion food, her guilty food pleasure, and why shouting is a no-no in her restaurant.

What has been your proudest career moment?

In 2008, when I was walking to The Modern Pantry, I looked up and saw that the guy had finished writing the name on the sign.

What was your perception of British food before you came to the UK?

As a child, I had a lot of bubble and squeak, bangers and mash, fish pie, and so on. I think the general perception of British food was that it was dull and boring, but that wasn’t mine. Having said that, trying the coffee over here for the first time was a shock!

What is fusion, and do you consider yourself a fusion chef?

To me, fusion is about having a lot of fun. It’s about having the freedom to use any ingredient that you come across, and you’re introducing these new ingredients into your cooking style. Most restaurants are fusion, anyway – look at Jason Atherton's dishes. He calls his food ‘modern British’, but it’s fusion. And yes, I do consider myself a fusion chef!

What is your food heaven and hell? 

I’m a big fan of pork…but I also love liquorice, miso, tamarind… lots of things. My food hell is kidneys. The smell, the texture, everything. I hated them as a kid, and I still hate them. Oh, and I don’t like green peppers; they taste like dirt.

What's your guilty food pleasure?

An Eccles cake from St John, straight out of the oven.

Any golden rules you insist on in your kitchen?

No shouting. I hate shouty kitchens.

How do you feel about the fact that the gender of successful women chefs is always brought up?

It’s a double-edged sword, I guess. On one hand, it’s given me lots of good publicity, but on the other, it’s a bit of an insult. There are very few female chefs that seem to be in the public eye – I don’t know why.

What's the worst food-related job you’ve ever had?

Packing bags of sultanas, flour and peanuts at the Pam’s factory when I was 17. Several times a day, the machinery would seize up and I would get showered with sultanas.

What advice would you give to young people who want to become chefs?

You need a really good work ethic; you need to listen; and you mustn’t be offended every time someone criticises you. The trick is to not take it personally.

Who would play you in a film about your life?

Uma Thurman; she’s a little bit kick-ass and stylish – that’s what I aspire to be! Or Cate Blanchett – I have a bit of a girl crush on her.

Interview conducted in March 2012.

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