Masterchef judge and restaurant critic Jay Rayner to hand down his Ten (Food) Commandments at Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch
- Credit: Archant
Before his new show comes to Queen’s Theatre, outspoken restaurant critic Jay Rayner spoke to Ralph Blackburn about the point of eating with your hands and the beauty of stinky cheeses.
Do you believe in the sacrilege of not eating with your hands – avoiding getting your fingers covered in grease while gorging on juicy spare ribs?
Are you a blasphemer who runs away from the stinkiest of cheeses, even if they smell of death?
Well Observer restaurant critic and Masterchef judge Jay Rayner has Ten (Food) Commandments to stop your culinary sins and show you the light.
Rayner, an acerbic and outspoken writer, brings his hilarious new show to Queen’s Theatre, in Billet Lane, Hornchurch, on September 24.
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“The first part is 50 minutes of well foodie stand up comedy with some recipes to take away,” he tells me.
The show is based on his previous book of the same name, where the self-proclaimed new culinary Moses sets out rules for today’s food obsessed age.
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Eat with your hands, worship leftovers and honour thy pig are just three important tenets for mordern day eating.
“Each is the starting point for an essay, which I investigated for the book,” he says.
Rayner starts by telling me the gospel of eating with hands, something I am partial to with a particularly calorific pile of nachos.
“When I started looking at why we eat with our hands, I found there are very important reasons for it,” he says.
“When people eat with cutlery they are using three senses – sight, taste and smell.
“But when we eat with our hands we add a fourth, touch, so when I am eating a spare rib I know I want to touch and feel the meat,” Rayner says.
I silently congratulate myself for always covering my hands with grease while munching on ribs.
Next on Rayner’s hit list is stinky food, specifically smelly cheese, which I’m less au fait with.
“The smell of cheese comes the unpasterised milk which is left to set.
“The bacteria gives the cheese the smell and flavour, and is actually good for you.”
With my stomach for stinky cheese limited, we move on to Rayner’s career in journalism.
He first worked as a reporter and news feature writer for 15 years, before a space opened up reviewing restaurants.
“I always say this job is about writing and not eating, it’s the words that I get paid for,” he explains.
Rayner’s reviews are certainly eye catching.
He recently described eating crab as “like building kitchen extensions and sex”, said Chigwell’s Sheesh restaurant was like “being trapped inside Lord Sugar’s wallet” and called one West End pop up’s £130 meal as “about as entertaining as a colonoscopy”.
He’s also penned several books, reporting on the sustainability of our eating habits.
“Writing about food is a great subject as it enters every aspect of our lives, politics, education,” he says.
“It’s great to have starting point that gives off all of these directions.”
Rayner is not a fan of farmers markets or “clean eating”, and believes focusing on local food is missing the point.
“I particularly hate the virtue signalling, and there’s a lot going on,” he says.
We discuss Havering and east London’s restaurant scene, and why he rarely ends up reviewing in the boroughs on the outside of the donut.
“The problem for the outer suburbs is that the residents are drawn to central London, and so London tends to damage the restaurant scene for places like Havering and Essex and Surrey.”
After chatting for around half an hour, I start to wrap up the interview and Rayner reminds me we haven’t yet spoken about the second half of the show.
“It’s a Q&A with the audience,” he explains.
“So people can tweet me questions in the interval and I will answer them.”
The Ten (Food) Commandments by Jay Rayner is at Queen’s Theatre, Billet Lane, Hornchurch, on Sunday, September 24, at 2.30pm.
Tickets are £14 and can be bought at Queen’s Theatre, by calling 01708 443333 or at queens-theatre.co.uk.