The Gannet Q&A

Ben Reade

2nd August 2018

Interview: Killian Fox

Born in Edinburgh, Ben Reade is the co-founder, with Sashana Souza Zanella, of Edinburgh Food Studio, a research hub that has just become a fully-fledged restaurant. Reade is a graduate of University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont and he was head of research and development at Noma’s Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen before returning home to Edinburgh. A chef by training, Reade has now handed over kitchen duties at Edinburgh Food Studio to newly-hired head chef James Murray, freeing him up to “think about the many non-cooking related tasks involved in running a restaurant”. Reade is also one of five founding owners of Company Bakery, a wholesale flour mill and bakery based in Leith.

If you could revisit one meal in your life, which would it be?

I’ve been very lucky to eat some incredibly special and sought-after food in my life, but honestly, I think if I had one meal to re-eat, I’d have Christmas dinner cooked by my late grandmother on my mother’s side. She was from a traditional English background, and Christmas dinner cooked by her always had all of the classic sauces and trimmings, roast ham with apple sauce and English mustard, roast turkey with cranberry/redcurrant and bread sauces, roast potatoes and parsnips, boiled carrots and sprouts, with plenty gravy. Super stuff.
We’d eat this with the whole extended family, my many cousins, aunties and uncles. It happened that we got together like this about once every two years, and I feel so privileged to have experienced such a nationally characteristic Christmas dinner – in fact one year I sent a Middle Eastern anthropologist friend, as I knew he’d never find a more traditional English Christmas anywhere.

What’s your most food-splattered cookbook?

Larousse Gastronomique. I have so many cookbooks, each of which has its own speciality, but Larousse is the go-to for so many classics recipes for which one actually needs a recipe.

What’s your biggest food or drink aversion?

I’m allergic to citrus. Not in a scary hospital/death kind of way. It just makes me itch. Anyway. I also LOVE citrus, particularly oranges, and about once a year when I smell the perfect orange, I ignore my allergy, and withdraw with an orange and have a quiet cry while I enjoy it. Its an annual ritual.

Describe your perfect breakfast.

FRUIT! I can smash back a lot of fruit. I’ll happily eat about 10 bits of fruit for breakfast (I’m a big chap). I don’t really care what fruit it is so long as it’s ripe.

Of all the restaurants in the world, which makes you happiest, and why?

About seven times in my life I have eaten a meal that has been so intensely enjoyable that it has thrown me into some kind of pleasure-addled euphoric state. Most recently this was on my honeymoon at El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain. It was mindblowingly delicious, and this is compounded by an incredible warmth and sense of personal hospitality. At one point in the menu I welled up, the langoustine was just so damn delicious it made me get heady and just absolutely blissed out.

What do you listen to when you’re cooking?

If I’m tired or grumpy, I go for Graceland by Paul Simon – sorts me out every time.

Tell us about a dish you make when you’re short on time.

Omelettes. Or scramblers. Eggs. Any form of eggs.

If you could only drink one thing, aside from water, what would it be?

There’s no point trying to be clever with this question. Just keep the red wine flowing.

What was your favourite food when you were 10?

I was a vegetarian when I was 10, and my mum used to make “sweetcorn pie”. It wasn’t fancy, it was a quiche of tinned sweetcorn, and if she was tired it didn’t have pastry either, but it was delicious every time.

What’s your favourite food scene in the movies?

Not so much a single scene but The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover by Peter Greenaway is super theatrical; I love it, it’s so sexy, and features so much ridiculously extravagant food and cooking gear.

Who is your food hero?

The late and great Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe remains a huge inspiration to me. I think she is the catalyst who indirectly pushed so many culinary movements forward. Myrtle unintentionally spurred on massive changes across the world. She was a humble and bright character, so full of charm. Her country house hotel and restaurant Ballymaloe remains so effortlessly classy and one of my favourite places to spend time in.

Describe a kitchen object you can’t live without.

I am the lucky owner of a few Fingal Ferguson knives. One of them in particular is a spectacular all-round cook’s knife. Fingal gave it to my wife and I for our wedding, and it’s the best blade I’ve ever had the pleasure of using.

What’s your favourite food and drink pairing?

Jurancon demi-sec and foie gras cuit.

Edinburgh Food Studio is at 158 Dalkeith Rd, Edinburgh EH16 5DX

Follow EFS: website | Twitter | Instagram

Follow Ben: Twitter | Instagram

Posted 2nd August 2018

In The Gannet Q&A


Interview: Killian Fox

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