Stephen Harris - 'Adding a lemon is like turning up the treble!'
The chef behind The Sportsman made some fun punk analogies at the book's launch in London last night
Last night we launched our new book The Sportsman with Stephen Harris at Noble Rot in Lamb’s Conduit Street, London. Guests included the chefs Adam Byatt, Scott Collins, Tom Oldroyd, Polpo’s Russell Norman, the Labour MP Keir Starmer, and the actor Alan Davies. Food critic Fay Maschler also turned up to toast the man who, in his own words, turned a grotty rundown Kent pub into the kind of desination venue that Restaurant magazine has voted the best National Restaurant of the Year for the last two years.
Stephen gave a characteristically charming speech during which he thanked Phaidon’s Emilia Terragni, James Booth-Clibborn and Eve O’Sullivan, with whom he worked closely on the book. He also made a great connection between the punk music he created as a youth and the food he now creates at The Sportsman.
"There’s a lot of music in it (the book). I don’t think anyone knew that about me but music is more important to me than food is, I’m sorry to say! As somebody who was born in 1961 my personality was forged in 1976 (the year of punk rock in the UK).
Within (punk) there was an anti-establishment (sic) but it wasn’t just a reckless, nihilistic anti-establishment it was more just: Who says you’re in charge? And that’s how I feel about food. When I started to go to posh restaurants I started to think: Who says you’re the arbiter of what’s good?"
He also revealed he had no intention of writing a book until Phaidon approached him. "It’s like if you’re a footballer and Real Madrid comes in - it felt like being asked by a really big football club to play. I couldn’t turn Phaidon down."
And he spoke about the original intention for the book and how it changed after the nearby Monkshill Farm closed down. "When I started writing it I wanted to write a dry book about terroir – that was the original plan to bore everybody stupid with my views about terroir! When the farm closed down I performed a pivot and I realised all my ideas about food came from music.
"When I add a lemon that’s just like turning the treble up. And when I add salt that’s pumping the bass up. Then I suddenly realised compression is the reduction of sauces and focusing the flavours – so I think about food the way I think about music. Trust me when you sit down and read it all makes sense." We do. And it does. Take a look at The Sportsman here.