Sunday, 10 April 2011

Cheer up Rowley… it’s already happened - food writing course Part 2

so, part two of our day of food writing and we’ve been relocated to Le Café Anglais in Bayswater for lunch and further discussion with Rowley Leigh, the English Literary teacher of British chef’s… to say there is a stark contrast between this morning and this afternoon’s sessions is an understatement of the highest order… but this is not necessarily a bad thing… as I think what I’ve learnt today is that we are without doubt ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ and however much we harp on about the Giles Corens and AA Gill’s of the world… they were NOT the first and most definitely wont be the last…

… without the prosaic bitchiness of Elizabeth David or the acerbic wit of Jonathan Meades we wouldn’t have Jay Rayner and his colic bitterness…

and it seems that dear Mr Leigh may have left a part of his heart back in that past where prose and punctuation were once, more important than speed and exposure… sensuality over sensationalism

the highlight of lunch, parmesan custard with anchovy toast

don’t get me wrong… in the words of Rowely Leigh… ‘our scallops were good’ but a little like the milk served with our after dinner coffee, perhaps Rowley has curdled…

… he met us at the door in his friendly grandfatherly fashion and sat with us through lunch… talked with us about his business, his cooking, his thoughts on the modern style of food writing ...but I think perhaps I put up the defences because when I talked about being passionate about food, he told me he didn’t believe in passion…that 'passion' was a word too over-used it had no meaning... I discussed the growth and trend in locally sourced British produce, the stuff I am surrounded by at home, but he told me he didn’t really think there was very much in it and that we’re not the great producers we claim to be… it upset me a little and I didn’t know where to look… 

... it was as though he’d given up… 

... and the shame of it was, that after lunch he read a series of reviews to us with such a beautiful voice and such obvious love for not only his craft but also the English language that it reminded me of glorious childhood days at my own grandfathers house where he would read Hans Christian Anderson to me and comfort me with love and care and… passion.


  1. Mmmm? Passion... maybe it has become an over-used and devalued word, like 'journey' (euuugh!!!!) and 'brave' (nooooo!)

    But slagging off local food producers would have go my hackles up I can tell you!

    Please don't be upset - you're right and what's his name? (I'd never heard of him before) is wrong.


  2. It seems he could/ should have expressed himself better.

    I agree that "passion", as a word, is over-used, particularly horribly on Masterchef, where contestants are constantly harassed to soundbite their passion again and again and again and again...

    But passion itself, that is surely to be admired? That level of love and joy and commitment and enthusiasm can surely only be described as such... how else could one describe it?

  3. I admire you Dom for writing so honestly about this session. It's alrgiht in theory to write a less than glowing review of something but putting the words on the page can be very difficult in my opinion. It sounds as though Rowley Leigh, although a supremely talented writer, is extremely out of touch. He needs to visit a few food blogs and go to some local farmer's markets!
    Waiting eagerly for the banana jam recipe (lucky, lucky you).

  4. Oh dear he sounds a bit down in the dumps... unless he's sampled the stuff by your local folks it's a bit grim to poo poo them. Can't say he looks a very cheerful chap either, maybe he was just having a bad day?

  5. How can the word passion be over-used? The usage of the word passion indicates passion in itself which I think it what keeps a person alive!

    I've always wanted to seriously attempt food writing but I have no idea where to start!

  6. I believe that in order to do something, or anything you love or enjoy you have passion. Granted, some words are over used, but I would think that a master of the English language would have been more eloquent in his choice of words.

    Furthermore, it's a fact that local is better!

  7. Nothing wrong with passion and if your are writing about food or blogging about it, passion is a must surely. I think some professional food writers might be feeling a bit threatened by the proliferation of food blogs. As for local food, that is one of my passions so I'd best say no more about it. But always interesting to hear where others are coming from.

  8. I love the word 'passion' and I still truly believe in the word despite of the over-use. You've got to have passion to live, right? I think so.

  9. Goodness Dom, Rowley does sound very very grumpy- do you reckon he's always like that? What a real shame, when your livihood is based on eating and writing about food, a role many would happily sell all close relatives/chew off their right arm/possibly both for.

    What did you think of the lunch?

  10. Mr Rowley seems too 'worldly', cynical in his approach to speaking to your group of enthusiastic food writers. It's almost as if he has become too entrenched in his own approach to food writing and his own routine approach to his craft. Perhaps he has lost his passion along the way.

    The current trends toward locavore consumption and the proliferation of food bloggers has perhaps caught him unaware ... there is great passion in both. Stick to your guns, Dom, and don't be afraid to look him straight in the eye and disagree with his points. He is not, after all, God. Simply a man with an opinion and an ego.

  11. I think whether of not passion is an overused word or not is irrelevant. What counts is that you love food and it's a shame that one food writer did not encourage that love in another food writer. He has maybe just become jaded by one too many Michelin starred meals which is certainly sad if that is the case. Maybe he was just having a bad day. As for local food I think we have an amazing nation of food producers as do you and most other bloggers.

  12. Thanks all for the comments. Don't get me wrong it was a very informative day and the above post was my review, written in the room with Rowley Leigh and then read out to him! He seemed to take it on the chin really well so it wasn't all bad!

  13. Well, he can not believe in passion all he wants but that won't stop it from existing. Excellent blog entry, Dom. And now, I ask you with love and patience, where is the banana jam recipe?!?!!? ;)

  14. How very strange. I've always liked Rowley Leigh's writing but I really don't like that he was so unsupportive of local food producers - and I think he couldn't be more wrong.

    I really enjoyed this post anyway Dom :)

  15. Paramesan custard? Wow. I can't even imagine how good that would taste.

    Anyway, it's very interesting to hear how your session is going. It's a shame that things weren't 100% smooth for you though. I think it's rude that someone would diss your belief in "passion." Passion is such an important element to life and hobbies - and I really think it's something to be embraced not debated over. Hm, quite strange.

  16. Even if you you have a bad day .. and let's face it we all have bad days, a true professional would smile and push through .. to say he has no passion is either at best stupid or at worst arrogant. In such a position one would expect better.

    Well done Dom fro writing such an honest account!

  17. Writing about all this food would make so sooo hungry :) Nice mention of Hans Christian Anderson by the way, I loved his stories!

  18. hey all, thanks so much for the positive feedback, I really appreciate the feedback on my writing style as well as my recipes, it means a lot to me.... and now, every time I hear the word passion, I want to scream!!!!

    @puddingpielane.... I LOVE HCA... The Little Mermaid... wow, what a story!

  19. What a blow after the last post.. it's too bad that Mr Leigh has been so bittered by life! Passion is what reminds us we are alive :)

  20. Did he mention anything about your passion (sorry, couldn't resist) for starting sentences with a triple full stop?

    [btw: I like it, it gives a nice conversational feel to your blog)

  21. last week I went to Le Café Anglais The food was pretty good especially so with the 50% toptable offer we had back in February. Worth looking out for those! We wouldn't have been happy to pay the full price for it though.


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