Sunday Brunch presenter Simon Rimmer, 57, on junk food, boxing to stay fit and interviewing foodies for his podcast, Grilling.
Be honest, do top chefs ever indulge in junk food?
Yes, I have no problem admitting that. I like a Burger King and I’m not averse to a dirty kebab on the way home. I’m a man of very simple tastes. While I like to eat well, I also like a bit of filth!
Have you ever had any disasters in the kitchen?
Sometimes you spend a long time developing a dish and it goes on the menu and nobody buys it. Years ago we did an aubergine curry. We all thought it was amazing but it just didn’t sell. It’s 25 years ago and it still hurts.
Another time I was cooking with Ashley Banjo on Sunday Brunch and we were making a spiced cauliflower dish. We got carried away talking and I didn’t realise that the heat on the pan had stayed on high. When you put chilli flakes into a really hot pan, it’s almost like cyanide gas has been let off. Everyone in the studio was coughing and couldn’t see.
What’s the secret of the success of your TV show, Sunday Brunch?
It’s absolutely right for a Sunday morning, I don’t think it would work on any other day. I take it very seriously but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. In some respects it has more in common with a radio show than a television show. You can dip in and out of it – you don’t need to sit there watching for three hours.
Why have you started your own podcast, Grilling?
I’d been considering it for ages but I only felt I wanted to do one if I had something I wanted to say or talk about. What started it was a conversation with chef Tom Kerridge. He told me that one of the big turning points in his life was when he read White Heat by Marco Pierre White. It made me realise that in all walks of life we all have those pivotal moments, whether they be intentional or accidental.
What was your pivotal moment?
I started my first restaurant, Greens, in 1990 and two years later a national newspaper described it as one of the 10 most exciting new restaurants in the UK. We were a small veggie restaurant in a Manchester suburb and all of a sudden we went: ‘Wow, we’re doing something that’s gaining momentum.’
Why do you have a vegetarian restaurant when you’re happy to eat meat?
When we were looking to buy a restaurant we had no money so we had to buy somewhere that was cheap. If the site was a Turkish restaurant then I’d now be the proud owner of a Turkish restaurant.
Who have you interviewed for your podcast?
The list is amazing and includes Nadiya Hussain, The Hairy Bikers, Gok Wan, Ainsley Harriott, Rick Stein and Adam Richman from Man V Food.
I interview so many people on Sunday Brunch but if I’m lucky I’ll get eight minutes talking to someone. With the Grilling podcast I get an hour. It’s a massive difference.
What inspired you to become a chef?
My mum and dad both cook. When I grew up in the ’70s it was rare for dads to cook. Both my grandmothers were amazing cooks too. When I was a student I worked in bars and restaurants. I’ve always loved it.
Growing up in the 1970s, you must have eaten your fair share of Angel Delight and spaghetti hoops…
There’s nothing wrong with butterscotch Angel Delight, and I’ve still got a soft spot for spaghetti hoops and macaroni cheese from a tin. The ’70s was a time when we celebrated scientific initiative over taste – things like ready meals and processed food. But my mum wanted to cook so I was jealous of the fact that my mates were having Smash and frozen pancakes. I missed out in some respects.
How do you stay in shape?
I box three times a week. I used to run but I’ve got knackered hips, I snapped my Achilles tendon several years ago and my knees are shot. I’m obsessed with boxing.
Are you finding this third lockdown difficult?
All of our 14 restaurants have been shut and we’re a relatively strong business but we’re not 100% safe. I’m very fortunate that I have a second income through Sunday Brunch but I’m finding for the first time that I’m struggling to be positive and enthusiastic in the mornings.
After taking part in Strictly Come Dancing, do you fancy doing any other shows?
I’d do I’m A Celebrity but in Australia rather than Wales. I’m too old for Dancing On Ice – Strictly was hard enough on my body.
Grilling with Simon Rimmer, in association with Weber BBQs, is available now on play.acast.com/s/grilling