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23 July 2014

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Starter for 10: interview with Silvena Rowe

(menu)

silvena rowe quince - Silvena_Rowe_cropped.jpgSilvena Rowe certainly had a lot to talk about when Square Meal met up with her. The cookery author, food columnist, TV cook, consultant and soon-to-be chef-patron of Quince at The May Fair Hotel has managed to pack a lot into life, and shows no signs of slowing down. Read straight-talking Silvena’s take on celebrity, what she thinks of ‘greasy doner kebabs’, and the real reason she can never go without dessert.

1. Do you see yourself as a celebrity chef?

Yes I do. I enjoy TV, I’m good at it, and I love being able to inspire people with my recipes. I’m also funny for some reason – maybe because I say what I think. I have a great relationship with people like James Martin [from Saturday Kitchen] and Phillip Schofield [from This Morning], so I’m a regular on those shows.

2. What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

I’m one of those greedy people who pack their lives with highlights. The highlight of my life has been the realisation that you can turn from a greedy child into a greedy omnivore into a professional chef. I turned what was a glorified hobby into food writing and took it as far as I can. Get up and go is the answer. And now, of course, the highlight has to be Quince. It’s the best thing that’s happened to me professionally.

3. Is Quince your chance to prove yourself as a chef?

That’s what I’d like to do very much. The concept of this restaurant came from my book Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume. Quince will be based on 'Ottoman opulence'.

4. Why the name Quince?

It’s my favourite fruit – it’s very alluring, interesting and misunderstood. It’s a very elegant fruit, very princely. It’s also a quintessentially British fruit – it was a favourite of the Victorians. On the menu at Quince, we get the best of British and we give it an Eastern Mediterranean twist, so I thought Quince was very fitting as a name.

5. What will be the restaurant’s signature dishes?

The menu is nearly ready and quince will feature throughout it in various forms. The menu will consist of sharing dishes, then a small number of signature dishes, plus meat, fish and dessert. Some of the signature dishes are twice-cooked baby pork ribs with blueberry and coriander molasses, served with a cashew nut dukkah, and spiced quail and foie-gras filo parcels with pistachios.

6. If you hadn’t been a chef, what would you have been?

I could see myself as a lawyer but I don’t know why. It’s totally unconnected, but I quite fancy myself as that.

7. What was your worst job?

I used to work for a travel company, and it was just something that I never should have done. I didn’t learn anything. I'm not the sort of person who can sit behind a desk for eight hours a day?

8. Do you prefer sweet or savoury food?

You know my scandalous saying, don’t you? Dinner without dessert is like sex without climax – I cannot eat dinner without having anything sweet afterwards. I’m greedy, my body wants both. If I had to, though, I would probably choose savoury because I put sweetness into everything I cook, so I could get away with savoury because of the sweetness in there.

9. What’s your favourite ingredient to cook with?

I go through stages – at the moment it’s wild fennel pollen. I make the most amazing blend with it. It’s incredibly potent, so a little goes a long way. I use a pestle and mortar that I love. It’s the most beautiful thing, made of pewter, and it’s so solid.

10. What would your last meal on earth be?

Stuffed vine leaves. I love them, absolutely love them. But my guilty pleasure is kebabs. A greasy doner kebab with lots of garlic sauce. I don’t care how dirty a kebab is, I’ll just have it.

Interview by Nicky Evans, News and Online Editor
[email protected]

Quince opens in May 2011.

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