Ready to meet your new girl crush? Step forward Gizzi Erskine, the T.V. chef with a killer ‘60s wardrobe and a fierce culinary skillset to boot.
When she’s not presenting on a television channel near you, she can be found in the kitchen at some of London’s coolest pop-up restaurants (Disco Bistro, anyone?). Oh, and her second recipe book, Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts has just been published--and she's giving us all the dish.
Plus, she took us 'round to her favourite foodie (and vintage) haunts in the part of London dear to her heart – Marylebone. Care to join?
Photographed by Claire Pepper
What is it about Marylebone that you love?
"Loads of people think of me as being synonymous with Hackney which is where I live now and I have done for about 11 years but I was actually brought up in Marylebone, between Marylebone and Lisson Grove and I know it really well. It has also got some of the best boutiques in London. Marylebone High Street is notorious for it. I can get vintage clothes from WilliamVintage and then go to La Fromagerie or the Ginger Pig, and they have really good coffee houses and boutique restaurants and even now they’re getting the cool stuff with Meat Liquor so it covers so many bases."
What makes Divertimenti so appealing?
"It is a kitchen supply shop but it is the best. There most be something in my psyche that likes places that pick the best things for you it just makes everything very easy. You have access to the best products from Kitchen Aid to really great knives and really great chopping boards. It is quite expensive. That is my only qualm about it but that is what happens when you shop on Marylebone, you go for luxury." Moschino Cheap & Chic dress, Ferragamo handbag and shoes. Divertimenti, 33-34 Marylebone High Street, London, W1U 4PT
Tell us about your new book – how did the idea for it come about?
"A couple of reasons. First of all I put on a little bit of weight and I thought I need to get back into the swing of things. After I wrote Cook Yourself Thin I thought I really need to have conviction with what I was doing because I knew what to do I just suddenly found myself like a lot of women or people generally getting into a rut of not being able to sustain the diet I was preaching about. I wanted to find a way that would speak to a lot of people about how they actually lived. So in the week the problem is I don’t have time to go shopping, I’m run off my feet. What can I get that’s quick to cook, fridge to table, within about thirty minutes? On the weekend I wanted to slow things down and really enjoy the cooking process and the entertainment side of food and giving myself a day off. When I starting thinking about this I found out some information that bodybuilders were giving themselves a day off a week from their carb-free, fat-free diet and their trainers were telling them to carb load and fat load on that day off. The day after they did that they were losing the most amount of weight. I thought this was awesome, and with this information I took it too a friend of mine who is a nutritionist and asked if this would work for other people and she said absolutely it works for two reasons, firstly it gives you the carrot at the end of the stick, you’ve got your treat day and secondly your metabolism doesn’t slow. If a person was to diet every day for four weeks you would probably lose weight very fast but then they would plateau but this gives your body a chance to catch up with itself. Which is what I put into practice, yes you do lose weight a little bit slower but actually I have managed to lose a little over a stone in over a three-month period. It’s sensible eating advice that people will be able to sustain and get their head around very easily."
How would you describe its aesthetic?
"I’m a massive '60s fan generally. I love all things rock and roll but particularly B-movies. I love film. My boyfriend is a graphic designer and illustrator and he illustrated the book with me and I think with a lot of food books they take themselves too seriously and they are little up a their own bottom sometimes. There are some books, which need that, but there are others that are becoming homogenous. I wanted something different that really reflected my personality and my loves and likes. There are pictures of me with my head chopped open and with my brain replaced with scoops of ice cream because I’ve got pudding on the brain. We’d tried to have a tongue in cheek laugh at how you feel when you are trying to lose weight with fun b-movie style illustrations. The book is split into two halves. One side of the book is a bit virtuous and the other is a bit naughty which is exactly how the book is."
What should everyone have in his or her kitchen at home? What spices and oils should we never be without?
"Utensils wise what I couldn’t live without is a really good chopping board and really good knives. I use Kinder
knives and they come in a variety of prices point so everyone should be able to find one they can afford. I only have two or three knives. I have a cook’s knive for chopping, a bread knive and a small paring knive and that is all I need. Other than that when it comes to pans, I am a massive Le Creuset
fan but they are expensive. You can get a cheaper variant on that for sure but you should look online, you can get some great deals, especially at places like Bicester Village
. It is so worth it. I also have a couple of non-stick frying pans and a wok. I do everything on a wok as I grew up in Asia.
"And with regards to spices, I’ve very passionate about having a great dry store cupboard. Because of my love of Asian food, I always have garlic, ginger, chilli, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sriracha which is a special chilli paste, gochujang which is a Korean chilli paste, seasame oil, those kinds of things I use on a daily basis."
How do you shop for food — weekly supermarket sweep or specialist-store raids?
"It depends how busy I am. I much prefer to go to artisan shops for the reason I like to shop locally and support local businesses and farms. I’m now actually buying my meat online. There is a great company called the East London Steak Company
that delivers all over England. Everything is hand picked and well hung, you’ve got that confidence that you’d have going to the Ginger Pig but you can get it all online. There is no reason nowadays for you to say, “I can’t get hold of it” anymore. I use Wing Yip
and the Japan Centre
for Asian ingredients. There is a great company called Sous Chef
that provides those hard to get “cheffy” ingredients, which you can’t find easily in the shops and they deliver, to your door the next day."
With food the focus of your career, how do you stay healthy?
"I stick to the 80/20 rule, which means as long as I’m good most of the time I can be bad every now and then. It’s about choosing your moments. Today I’ve had lunch at Meat Liquor but I will be good tonight and I had a healthy breakfast so I’m okay. I just have to make sure tomorrow I will be good. It’s just about finding that balance and just being conscious and not letting yourself have too many naughty moments. Dieting is hard work and staying slim is hard work and it’s also about having the right balance of carbohydrate to protein and lots of fruit and veg. Eating with your eyes and eating loads of colours is what is best for you. It is also the most delicious way to eat."
What makes WilliamVintage so appealing?
"Will is the best in the country for hand picking vintage clothing, he chooses the best, he has the best contacts, and he goes around the world sourcing really amazing couture clothes. It’s not just couture; he finds really special pieces too. For me if I want to feel special and I have an event to go to or I have a special occasion I always choose Will for my clothes. Everyday less so, but for something super special absolutely." Vintage velvet dress; Miu Miu shoes.
WilliamVintage, 2 Marylebone Street, off New Cavendish Street, London, W1G 8JQ
How important is fashion to you?
"Strangely unimportant. I love clothes but fashion isn’t that interesting for me. I love the ‘60s so I love looking for '60s clothes but I don’t really know what is in and out of fashion. I don’t know very many designers but the ones I do know are the ones, which do the clothes I love. I love people like Moschino and a new designer I’ve just discovered called Vivetta who creates great '60s style dresses with amazing collars and really great tweeds. Slightly punky but with a moddy, slightly girly, cute twist."
How would you describe your personal style?
"'60s with a bit of punk thrown in. I used to be a punk, I was a psychobilly. I’ve got quite a lot of pyschobilly things going for me. As I get older I do know I need to be a little more refined in terms of how I dress. So I still wear a lot of leopard print and I still have my tattoos on display when I can."
Who are your style icons?
"A lot of my friends influenced me as they were super stylish and into the same scene as me, when you are into that scene, you are interested in what everyone is wearing. I love the ‘60s so the famous model, Ana Karina, is an inspiration. I call her “dirty Audrey Hepburn” as she had the beehive but she was just a bit grubbier which I kind of think is the way I’ve naturally fallen into as I’m such a klutz and a tomboy. Also I love the buxom Raquel Welch. I’d love to be that sexy but unfortunately I’m not."
You have so much going on at the moment — do you have any tips for looking fabulous 24/7?
"I always feel like I don’t look fabulous. Like I’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards. I’m such a tomboy. I’m lucky that I’ve chosen a look that means my hair is always up. It’s very practical for cooking but I think a lot of people think it takes ages to do in the morning. It takes me five minutes. Because of that most of time my hair is always in place and it lends a certain finish to my look. But it’s a façade as my shoes are scuffed, I’ve got holes in my clothes – so it’s not really how I am."
Do you work out to stay in shape?
"Yes. I do kettle bells. When I’m being good I do 20 minutes of kettle bells, five times a week which is really easy and I run a couple of times too. If I’m being really bad which is at the moment, I might run once a week but for me exercise is about state of mind, it doesn’t contribute to weight lose for me. It helps with body shape and tone but I’ve never lost weight from exercise. But it makes me feel amazing and clears my brain and makes me feel like I’m going to make better choices so I think it is really important."
What makes Le Fromagerie so appealing?
"As a shop they are great at hand selecting the best produce so you know you can go in there and you can get hard to come by things. I just find it really lovely that they are searching Britain and France for some of the best produce. The cheese is spectacular; their cheese room excites me. I’m more excited about that then going into a sweet shop to be honest. If I lived in Marylebone, which is ultimately the dream, it would be just fantastic to have on your doorstep. It’s just a real treat to go in there every now and again and it’s next door to the Ginger Pig, which sells the best meat as far as I am concerned."
Has working in the restaurant business influenced the places you like to go?
"Yes but before I was "cheffing" and was really interested in food I was about pushing boundaries and seeing extraordinary Michelin food at the top end of gastronomy; whereas now I think I’ve eaten a lot of that and I’m interested in just having a great burger or having a great steak. Just having very pure food."
Moschino Cheap & Chic dress.
La Fromagerie, 2-6 Moxon Street, London, W1U 4EW
Who has been the most important influence on your career to date?
"It is a difficult question to answer. Obviously my mum is a massive influence on me. She always had us cooking from an early age. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t cook. She was very bohemian in her love for food and we were always eating weird and wonderful things, which definitely influenced my taste, as my food is fusion. I always like to fuse Asian and American food styles together. On a professional level David Chang, from Momofuko
is my hero but equally I couldn’t have got to where I am without a woman called Caroline Waldegrave, the head teacher at Leith’s School of Food and Wine
who allowed me to finish Leith"s when I was about to walk out because I was exhausted, falling to bits and couldn’t afford to do it anymore. Also from a television level Helen Warner who was the commissioning editor at Channel Four at the time has really pushed my career on T.V.
What has been the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
"It wasn’t actually advice but something I learned on the job where at the beginning of my career I was going up for T.V shows and, being a bit weird, I was very conscious of my look as I used to be a body piercer and I have tattoos and at the time I had the side of my head shaved. I wanted to feel a bit more normal. I would go to interviews looking like what I thought they would want me to be and I wasn’t getting the jobs. Suddenly I had a phone call and they said they really liked me on screen but they were looking for someone who was a bit more edgy and I thought that’s me! At this stage I realized that you have to be yourself. If they don’t like you for you then you are just not right for the job but you’ve tried being you. My presenting style now is being recognized for me. I used to go into work and think “right, I’m going to channel whoever” but now I “channel” myself."
The spices every budding chef needs in their kitchen.
Gizzi picked up this vintage, leopard-print jacket in Margate!
The unobtrusive entrance to the best burger joint in town: Meat Liquor!
There are no plates or cutlery in this burger joint, just a lot of paper towels and trays. You have been warned!
What makes Meat Liquor so appealing?
"I just love the fact that the music is great. What I try to do with food is combine it with music and so does Yianni [Papoutsis] and Scott [Collins] and it’s great fun. The music is loud; the food is trashy but it’s really well made, with really great ingredients. Everything tastes wonderful, you feel like you’re having a dirty burger but at the same time you’re not because its been very well thought out. You always have a fun time. I get up to lots of mischief there, always." Vintage Betsy Johnson jumpsuit; vintage leopard-print belt.
Meat Liquor, 74 Welbeck Street, London, W1G 0BA
Gizzi's favourite burger at Meat Liquor is the Dead Hippie!
As a talented chef in your own right, what do you look for in a restaurant when you are going out?
"It depends on my mood and my vibe and what I’m really into at the time. For example it is always about produce. I need to know somebody is using really great produce and that they know what they are doing but that doesn’t mean it has to be top end, it has to be somebody who is super passionate about what they are doing and doing it to the best of their abilities."
Food wise, do you have a guilty pleasure?
"Fried chicken. I love it. I eat it in every guise possible. I try my best not to eat the really bad high street stuff. I like to cook it myself but don’t get me wrong, I do like to eat the bad high street stuff. If I’ve had a few drinks or I’m running home from work and really hungry or back from a festival that’s when I eat it. Most of the time I do cook it myself because it tastes better and I have the guilt thing about the ethical side of it all, the chickens, you want to know they came from a good place."
What is next for you?
"I’m fronting a massive event called The Lab
, which is on April 25-27 and is running alongside Taste of London festival. It’s a bit more of an intellectual food festival, we’re trying to show people skills rather than just a cookery demonstration. We’ll be working with people who are famous for foraging, for molecular gastronomy and for barbeque. The public will be able to go round and have this tactile experience with food and be fed by these incredible people. We’ve got some of the best chefs in the world coming. I’m also famous for doing pop-ups and I’ve got a massive one in September. I can’t tell you what it is yet but it’s going to be the biggest one I’ve ever done."
Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts by Gizzi Erskine, £10.99, available at Amazon.