FT Foodies: Stevie Parle

‘We used to cook at Rose Gray’s house quite a lot - we’d go to Southall, get loads of ingredients and cook Indian or Sri Lankan’

Chef and cookery writer Stevie Parle grew up in Birmingham. He has worked in New York, Tokyo and since 2009, he has run The Dock Kitchen in London, located in designer Tom Dixon’s Portobello showroom.

What were your school dinners like?

Not too bad. I remember the big kitchens and the massive mixers that made things like “chocolate concrete” – really hard biscuit you could break your teeth on.

What started you on a career in food?

My parents were doctors and I always thought I’d do something like that, but I hated school, and realised I could just cook. We grew up having really great food holidays in places like Ireland. My dad would cook fish straight off the boat. I went to Ballymaloe Cookery School when I was 16, then I got a job at the River Café in London.

How would your team describe your management style?

I like to look after people, and I send them to interesting places to eat. My cooking style is quite different – I don’t plate things up in a decorative way, I tend to just push the food over. I’m a little bit hectic, and I expect a lot.

Is the customer always right?

I’d like to say we’re a “yes” restaurant, but no, the customer is not always right. The customer can be a collaborator, but they shouldn’t be the director.

What would you consider bad manners at the table?

Taking pictures of food. Anything on the phone.

Is the London restaurant scene peaking?

What we’ve done is create a restaurant scene that’s about buzz. It’s new opening, new opening, new opening … That’s quite exciting to be a part of, but restaurants that are years old can be ignored – places like Moro or St John – I think Londoners almost take them for granted. We’ve lost that thing of supporting your local restaurant.

What would you cook for a family Sunday lunch?

We live next to a great fish shop, we quite often have roast fish or curry or stew with loads of vegetables.

Do you exercise?

No, I work on my feet a lot.

What are your projects for the next few years?

I have an 18-month-old son, and I have a few ideas about restaurants. We’re still doing pop-ups, but in some exciting places – we’re in Milan this spring for a week, and may do something in Lebanon.

Who would work in your dream kitchen?

I’d love to be able to cook with [the late] Rose Gray again, though obviously I can’t. We used to cook at her house quite a lot – we’d go to Southall and get loads of ingredients, and cook Indian or Sri Lankan.

What would you have for your last meal?

Black Kashmiri daal and wholemeal chapati, with cold beer.

‘Stevie Parle’s Dock Kitchen Cookbook: Real Home Cooking from Around the World’ is published by Quadrille (£25).

www.dockkitchen.co.uk

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