Wicked Chats with Valentine Warner

The chef, former TV presenter and painter on the beauty of fennel, the strength of raw fish and getting freaked out by Debbie Harry.

Val Warner

Valentine Warner is a writer, cook and painter, and former TV presenter of the BBC show What to Eat Now. He is co-founder of Hepple Spirits, an innovative distillery based in the wilds of Northumberland. His latest book is called The Consolation of Food: Stories about life and death, seasoned with recipes.

Describe yourself in three words. Creative, scarves, whirring.

Worst job? Cooking a sit-down dinner for 1,250 people in the old In & Out Club in Green Park. We had to create a large kitchen from nothing. Conducting 50 chefs, it was a nerve shredder given it was the first job of this size for my then catering company. A success as it turned out, but my worst job ever until it was done and finished. In hindsight, worry can be a useful thing

Favourite vegetable? Fennel. I love every single separate part of it both to eat and to look at. Its tall feathery fronds and yellow flowers are always a pleasing sight. Tremendous plant!

Favourite late night snack? Full fat yoghurt with local honey bought back from France or Greece and a strong loose-leaf camomile tea.

One single thing you could change about the world? That anyone with integrity, a genuine ability to listen, wisdom, compassion and modesty quite simply won out. What a very different place it would be!

Biggest fear? Confinement.

What gives you strength? Nature, raw fish, the idea of ‘what’s next’?

What’s your ideal day? Being on a wild and secret stretch of river with a pocket knife, salami, hard-boiled egg, tomato, salt and good bread. Fishing alone, maybe in the company of one other or on an adventure with my children.

First single you ever bought? Stray Cats, Madness, One Step Beyond and Debbie Harry, KooKoo. I bought all three cassettes together with my Christmas money (inside cover of KooKoo freaked the living daylights out of me. I binned it.)

Your most treasured possession? My sketch books. 

What would your super power be? Teleport. Although this would almost certainly create havoc with my car keys, wallet and spectacles.


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