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3 Jul 2014

MEETING MARCO PIERRE WHITE  

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I’ve always wanted to meet Marco, having lived a few miles from Harvey’s, the restaurant in Wandsworth he ran between 1987 and 1993, and hearing through the grapevine of his antics, such as shagging customers in his office upstairs and chucking others out if they became unruly. Sadly, I never made it to Harvey’s as a) I was always skint and Harvey’s was expensive and b) this was the period when I was going out less, settling down and having  babies.

I spasmodically followed Marco’s career ever since, reading his ghosted but nonetheless fascinating auto-biography, The Devil in theKitchen but avoiding his tele programmes as I find the idea of “celebrity chefs” eye-rollingly dull. I find the idea of celebrity anything eye-rollingly dull, actually. Winning Come Dine With Me and subsequently getting asked for autographs every time it's re-aired has given me a whiff of the celebrity zoo and as I always say, fame is a price, not a reward.

Oliver Reed on the set of Ken Russell's The Devils.

Celebrity as a concept may be dull as dishwater, but Marco as a human being isn't and I was determined not to have a repeat of my experience with Oliver Reed - still to this day my favourite actor but one I never met - where at thirteen, I wrote to him at his mansion, Broome Hall in Surrey, telling him how much I admired his work and asking if I could come and visit him. Considering Ollie later married the girl he’d met when she was fourteen, Josephine, god knows what trajectory my life would have followed had I posted that letter instead of neshing out at the post box, crumpling it up and throwing it in the nearest bin. So I never met Ollie.

No, I was determined that if I had a chance to meet Marco, I would take it. After all, when I went to see another much admired actor, Peter O’Toole perform in the West End in Jeffrey Barnard is Unwell back in 1988, I ended up having one of the most thrilling moments of my life.

  Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia

I was sitting only five rows from the front, and during a scene in the play when Peter sat at the front of the stage, staring out into the audience with the action continuing behind him, he caught my eye and I was then lost in his brilliant blue eyes for a whole two minutes, neither of us looking away, both melting into the soul of the other, until finally he moved back onto the stage to deliver his next line. That gaze with Peter O’Toole was the most intimate and intense gaze I’ve ever had with a complete stranger.

                                                              Marco  © Bob Carlos Clarke

So when I found out, at Sheffield Food Festival, that Marco Pierre White was due to be visiting his new restaurant, Marco’s New York Italian, I booked a table for me and my husband for that night. On meeting Marco, would I nesh out as with Ollie (I was only a teenager then, remember) Or would I be bold as brass as with Peter? (unhappily married and pregnant.) The difference now of course is that I'm happily married to my soul mate.

However for a laugh and because I love writing, the day before the meal, I post an imaginary scenario outlining what might happen when I meet Marco on my personal Facebook, to much hilarity, applause and many likes from my Facebook friends. Here it is:

MEETING MARCO PIERRE WHITE:

Brian and I walk into the restaurant. Marco looks up, notices me, and thinks "My god that's a fine figure of a grandmother. I want to fuck her." Notices Brian with his chest out and much curly man hair on show and realises his chances may be scuppered.

Comes over to our table to talk to us. Says hello. I say, "Hello Marco! My name's Jude and I'm a best-selling author of erotic fiction! This is my husband Brian. He's from Leeds, like you. Oh and he's a passionate cider maker."

Marco proceeds to feel at ease, being with an erotic author and a hairy bloke from Leeds with curly hair (like himself) rather than getting stuck in a corner with the likes of Madonna and Piers Morgan.

He completely ignores the fact that Brian is a brilliant cider-maker and coos over the fact I'm an erotic author. "You're an erotic author? I'd love to read one of your books."

I whip out an already signed copy of Mother-in-Law,Son-in-Law. He peruses the dedication page ("To Marco, you are a god amongst men, I adore you, Love Jude xxx") with deep interest whilst occasionally flicking his eyes up to meet mine with melting admiration, then says, "This is fantastic. You're amazingly talented, Jude. Almost as talented as me" at which point I grimace and give him a cool, level stare.

Marco ignores this and continues to gaze meltingly into my eyes, then says, "Never mind your husband, let me take you for coffee and doughnuts tomorrow. There's a Krispy Kreme outlet in Meadowhall."

I swoon and flutter my eyelashes at Brian."You don't mind if I go for an innocent, non-carnal coffee and Krispy Kreme doughnut with Marco tomorrow, do you darling?"

Brian replies, "Of course not, sweetheart. I don't like doughnuts and anyway I have a 10am risk assessment to do as part of my crushingly tedious Health and Safety job, which pays for your indolent and frivolous lifestyle."

Marco and I burst into laughter at Brian's witty retort, our eyes lighting up as we glance naughtily at one another.

Brian and I eat our fairly average Italian meal which Marco has had nothing to do with preparing as Marco's Italian is a franchise.

Marco happily saunters off to chat to another customer, thinking "Fucking Knorra, I get paid 25k a pop to do these franchise appearance gigs. I've got no intention of meeting whoever she is, but at least she'll be dreaming about me tonight and not that fat bloke from Leeds" before surreptitiously handing my book to a waiter for disposal.

As I stagger onto the last number 20A of the night, I slur to Brian, my head dizzy with wine and Marco, "See? He loved me!" and Brian patiently pats my head.

"Yes dear."

***

Of course, life is inevitably stranger than fiction, and the above scenario didn’t happen. This is what actually happened.

My husband (and editor) Brian Trevelyan and rock star brewer Dave Szwejkowski

Brian and I are crossing the road approaching Marco’s New York Italian five minutes before our table is booked, when whom should we see on the pavement in front of the restaurant but Dave Szwejkowski of Steel City Brewing, Sheffield’s very own rock star brewer, famous for brews such as his black IPA,“Worse Than Hitler”.

Dave tells us he’s off to Shakespeares round the corner, an award-winning pub which stocks one of the best ranges of real ale in Britain – real ale also currently known, rather pretentiously, as “craft ale” now that suddenly it’s fashionable – which reminds me...

A few years ago, before the current craft ale boom, Brian and I recommended to owner Justin Rowntree of Silversmiths restaurant (the one featured on Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares where Gordon made it clear he thought Justin was a complete knob) that Justin start serving real ale in his then nightclub and Tapas Bar, Runaway Girl, as we could tell that real ale was about to hit the big time. Justin sneered that real ale was for blokes with beards. Er...just as beards were about to sprout on a million young men's faces, thus missing two huge upcoming fashion trends in one fell swoop.

I take a quick snap of Dave as he’s a legend, then we proceed into the restaurant.


The first thing I notice, as with all restaurants, is the lighting. Unless it’s the source of sunlight, bright lighting in restaurants is totally naff. They’ve got the lighting right, not too light, not too dim. I like the maître d’ who is welcoming and friendly without being obsequious, staff obsequiousness being my second pet hate along with bright lighting.

My eyes scan the room. Lots of Sheffield locals sat at tables eating, dressed in their evening finery in that smart yet eccentrically casual manner unique to Sheffield folk. Nice decor. But no Marco. Maybe he overslept. Probably not as, according to that bastion of truth, The Daily Fail, but more reliably, the catering industry press, this gig really is worth 25K to him.

Never mind, it’s just nice to have a night out.

    Gorgeous flock wallpaper at Marco's New York Italian

“I love the decor!” I exclaim to the maître d’, throwing my arms wide in an expression of genuine joy. “It works very well!”

What I don’t realise is that sat a few feet right behind me is Marco, quietly observing the diners as they enter his restaurant, unseen by them so he can, if he wants to, assess them as they are naturally, before altering their behaviour in front of the celebrity chef.

A waiter shows us to a table I don't like as it’s sandwiched in between two tables replete with normals whose conversation will almost certainly drive me insane within minutes. I spy an empty table by the window which is slightly more isolated and request that one. The waiter graciously complies. I like that.


Happily seated by the window. Shades on because at times I'm a right fucking poser.

 I request a jug of iced tap water from the waiter, peruse the menu, decide what I want to eat then scan the room again. Suddenly I notice, in a dark corner behind the front entrance, a huge blue and white striped throne on which Marco is sat, gazing forlornly out at the room. So, he’s already seen us enter his restaurant, unseen by us. Whether it's deliberate or not it's clever.

I can see beyond his impeccably professional demeanor and, with the perception of the observational writer, my immediate, instinctive gut feeling is of a deeply unhappy man who would rather be anywhere else in the world but here.


One by one diners approach Marco. The manager (a personable bloke I first met at Sheffield Food Festival) hands each one a white apron embroidered with the Marco’s Italian logo. Marco cordially greets each new arrival, politely making small talk with them before dutifully and quite carefully signing their apron.

Within minutes he is surrounded by half a dozen diners, taking pictures, standing and gawping, one diner actually kneeling at the foot of Marco’s throne like an obsequious lackey (too busy scoffing my starters to get a shot of that, sorry.)

After this particular batch of diners have all had their aprons signed, they melt back into the restaurant, leaving Marco momentarily alone on his enormous striped throne with no-one observing him but I, the writer. He slumps wanly into the cushioning of the throne’s upholstered fabric then glances in my direction, perhaps sensing he’s being watched.  His mouth turns up slightly in a half smile as though he’s recognised a kindred spirit out there in the sea of faces, one who may momentarily rescue him from the tedium of the franchise appearance gig.

Apparently he has put the rights to his brand name into a trust, so whether he’ll be pocketing this dosh, who knows? I can think of far more miserable ways to earn a ton, never mind 25k, but as I look away from him I do feel sympathy because he looks like a man who was searching for something, struggled to achieve it, found it, then discovered it was hollow and meaningless. The classic story arc in so many great novels, plays and films and the way many of our lives play out even without the fame, money or success. No matter how much people slag him off (I think he'd be the first to admit he's made quite a few foes in his time) he’s a human being who looks deeply unhappy, which does touch me.



“I must go and get my apron signed before I neck half a bottle of wine, shall we go before dessert?” I ask Brian, and wait for another queue of fawning admirers to abate before we walk up to the reception area. The manager hands me my apron, I wait for the couple talking to Marco to finish, and then finally, I am presented with one of the people I’ve always wanted to meet, Marco Pierre White. Is it going to be an Ollie moment or a Peter moment?

I walk up to Marco, smile and shake his hand. He has a big, warm hand and a mellow handshake.

"Hello Marco! I’ve always wanted to meet you! My name's Jude and I'm a best-selling author of erotic fiction! This is my husband Brian. He's a passionate cider maker. And he's from Leeds!"

Marco raises his eyebrows for just a flicker of a second and proceeds to feel at ease, being with a hairy bloke from Leeds with curly hair (like himself) rather than having to discuss some burd's chuff pamphlet.


“Oh, you’re from Leeds?” he says politely to Brian, and they proceed to spend the next five minutes discussing both Leeds and cider which, of course, is what I'd hoped for all along. It’s tiring talking about yourself and your work at book signings as I know from experience; sometimes it’s refreshing to talk about other people and their lives.

       Eric and Chef Rico from The Rutland Arms

I recommend Shakespeares to Marco for its huge selection of ales and The Rutland Arms for its food, as chef Rico and his team regularly turn out food that would put most restaurants I visit to shame, thus accounting for their regularly high Trip Advisor ranking.

“You’re not from Sheffield, are you?” muses Marco.

“No, I’m from all over the place! I lived near Harvey’s when you were there, but  never went. I really regret it now, not only because I never met you, but also because, I found out recently, my favourite actor of all time, Oliver Reed, used to go there. People think, nowadays, that he was just a piss-head. He wasn’t. He was one of the finest actors this country has ever produced.”

“He was a genius.” murmurs Marco. I can see why this soft-spoken stuff gets the ladies, bloody hell.



Marco then picks up my apron to sign it and says “Jude...Hey Jude...”

“Yeah, I’ve only heard that, like, two million and seventy-five times”

“Was it Hey Jude? Or was it Hey June?”

“I don’t know what the original lyrics were when they wrote it...” I say, feeling like a complete airhead for not being there when John and Paul actually wrote it.

“It was Hey Jude on the album.” interjects Brian, popping a cork into the fizz of our playful exchange.

I glance behind us and a queue of half a dozen people has formed whilst Marco has been talking to me and Brian.

“Ooops, sorry to keep you all waiting!” I smile at them, then proffer my iPhone.

   Managed to do a Peter and not an Ollie...

“Marco, do you know what a selfie is?  Shall we do a selfie?”

Marco looks bemused.“Oh, go on then.”

After fiddling around trying to get the lighting right, I take the shot and as I move away, Marco murmurs,

“You’re funny" then adds “Good luck with your cider” to Brian.

I give him a big wave and we go back to our table for dessert.

After our meal, we head round the corner to Shakespeares, where we find Dave Szwejkowski (or Dave Unpronounceable as he’s known on the CAMRA scene) his girlfriend Shaz and her mate Sarah.


Dave grins at us as we walk in.

“Thought you’d be at Krispy Kreme’s with Marco by now.” he quips, dryly. We sit down and join them, Dave’s assortment of the halves he’s sampling lined up in a plastic drinks crate on the table.

As I stagger to the last number 20A of the night, I realise we’ve missed it, so we have to get a cab. But nevertheless on the way home I slur to Brian, my head dizzy with wine and Marco,

"See? He loved me!" and Brian patiently pats my head.

"Yes dear."

***

Footnote: Marco, if you ever read this, when you’re next in Sheffield Bry and I will buy you a pint and this time I won’t write about it. Deal? You can get hold of me here. x

N.B: As I'm a top reviewer on Trip Advisor, I'll add the link to my review of Marco's New York Italian here once it's published...






© Jude Calvert-Toulmin 2010

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13 May 2014

Mad Men Season 7 Megan's Laurel Canyon Pad  

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Above: A lovely shot of this gorgeous paisley chiffon against a backdrop of foliage.

Aside from the amazing writing and performances on AMC's Mad Men, one of the things which has kept me glued to the series right from the first ep of Season 1 is the set design and costumes.

I was in love with Don's Manhatten apartment (weren't we all?) and that lamp.


But for me the apex of the show's set design is Megan's (played by Jessica Pare) Laurel Canyon pad. The pink and yellow and orange geometric, slightly zany kitchenette curtains which are just perfect. The pattern is ordered but all a bit unpredictable, just like Megan's life right now.


I love the Moroccan furniture, the lamps (especially the one in the pic below), the brass tables, the foot stool. This was at a time when Morocco was finally catching on as a place to hang out, years after the Beat Generation writers were popularising it as a hipster destination and the hippies of Cali would have been bringing back artefacts and furniture from their favourite groovy nirvana. 



However, there's something about everything about the Laurel Canyon pad that bodes bad things. It's all so sumptuously gorgeous, it feels like perfection about to be horribly flawed. There's lots of jabber on the net predicting a Manson-style massacre with Megan as the victim and I'm not sure how I feel about this, but the foreshadowings of doom are there all right. The heavily pregnant blonde à la Sharon Tate (Don's "niece" Stephanie, beautifully played by Caity Lotz), the musician boyfriend in prison who would kill someone rather than come out and Ginsberg's "Cassandra" reference as other bloggers have already mentioned. (Cassandra being the Greek mythological figure who had the power of prophecy and the curse of never being believed.) 


When Ginsburg says "Get out while you can" is this a harbinger of doom reference to Megan stuck up there in the Canyon with a bunch of wannabes? Who knows...

Anyway suffice to say that the set design and all Megan's costumes this season (by Janie Bryant and, I presume, her team?) are spectacular and seem to be focusing a spotlight of attention on the Megan storyline.



You can read more about Claudette Didul's work on the design for this set here by the way.

Only two more eps to go this half-season, let's see if the Laurel Canyon pad is going to be the location of a big plot bombshell, or remain simply one of the best designed sets on any TV show anywhere, ever. I'll finish off with three of my favourite Megan outfits. The pistachio chiffon negligee from Season 5, Episode 11, the beach dress from Season 6, episode 1,  and that blue dress with the pleated chiffon sleeves from Season 7, episode 1.You can follow Megan's wardrobe here on the Mad Men wikia. 











© Jude Calvert-Toulmin 2010

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14 Mar 2014

A Tribute to Tony Benn by Brian Trevelyan. RIP.  

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Photograph ©David Levene
My husband (and editor) Brian Trevelyan wrote a beautiful tribute to Tony Benn this morning. Here it is.

Once, whilst waiting for a train in Leeds, I sat on a bench, reading New Scientist to kill the time. Away down the platform, a knot of people in suits were talking self-importantly and loudly. In my peripheral vision, I was aware of a figure detaching himself from this group and walking over, where he sat down wearily, on the bench next to me. 


I glanced up. It was Tony Benn. The party he'd walked away from was the campaign group for his son, Hilary, who was standing as MP for Leeds North-West. 

I looked down at my magazine, mind racing. Here was a man who was a political hero of mine, a politician of principle and conscience, whose socialist conviction had remained strong throughput his career. I had to speak to him. 

But he was obviously tired, relishing the few moments of peace away from the gaggle of Labour drones, and what would I say? "Wow! You're Tony Benn!!" a fact of which he was probably already aware. Or "You are a personal hero of mine, may I shake your hand?" Which might have been acceptable, had he not been deep in contemplative reverie, and what if he asked me "Why?"

So, I sat and read my magazine, whilst my hero daydreamed and sucked on his empty pipe, until the train pulled in and we both stood to board. As we did, I glanced at him, and he at me, and our eyes caught. He smiled, a kind little smile, and his eyes crinkled warmly, as if he knew all along what I'd been thinking. 

That little glance said all that needed to be said. 

RIP Tony Benn. We will not see your like again, and Britain is the worse for your passing.

© Jude Calvert-Toulmin 2010

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Brian's Beanburger Recipe aka Spicy Bryburgers  

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Spicy Bryburgers


My husband Brian wrote this recipe through trial and error, and has come up with the most delicious beanburgers I've ever had. The inclusion of bulgar wheat soaks up the excess liquid so that the burgers are firm yet moist and not flabby, too wet or too dry. Plus they have a slight crunch to them.

You can get gram flour from Asian or Indian stores; it adds a nuttiness to the flavour, if, however you don't have access to Indian or Asian food stores then you can substitute rye flour or stone-ground flour. Just don't use bread flour as the high gluten content will make the texture too dense.

You can serve these with some melted Cheezly on top (or cheese if you're not a vegan) in a bread cake with a hot piquant sauce. Absolutely divine.

Trivia: Brian is the one I said had ravished me over the kitchen worksurface that morning on Come Dine With Me Sheffield (Series 27 Episode 28) in which I appeared (and won!)

3 cups beans (soak overnight)
Boil until just floury
Add 1 cup red lentils
Cook till lentils are soft, drain totally.
Puree on pulse two-thirds to three-quarters of mix, save rest.
Mix together

Mix in the following:

1 large onion, finely chopped
Tons of garlic (about 6 fat cloves)
2 cups chopped nuts
Good slug soy sauce
2 cups gram flour
2 tablespoons salt
10 deseeded, chopped green bird's eye chillis
Good twist black pepper
1 tsp dry roasted and ground cumin
1 tsp dry roasted and ground coriander
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 teaspoons English mustard
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
1 cup bulgar wheat

Shape into patties
Put around 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and heat
Add a couple of burgers and cook for 7-8 minutes (ish) on each side on medium until golden brown or until they look done.

© Jude Calvert-Toulmin 2010

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8 Jan 2013

New Year 2013 News  

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Hi everyone, Honey Higginbotham here, Jude's PA / PR guru / flatterer / tea-maker /toe-nail polish applier updating you on recent news. As Jude has been laid low with viral meningitis for a couple of months I've had the run of the office and it's been fucking brilliant without her, parties every afternoon. But (unfortunately) she's back with us and working flat out again which means I've been nagged into writing this. Sigh. I'm on Facebook btw...

NEW YEAR 2013 NEWS:

COME DINE WITH ME, A BESTSELLER AND MORE NOVELS 


Every time Channel 4 or More 4 broadcast The Come Dine With Me which Jude won, Mother-in-Law, Son-in-Law shoots straight back up into the Amazon erotica bestseller lists. This means that at all the dinner parties Jude gets invited to, she can now brag about being a best-selling author before farting and falling face-first into the cheesecake.



The title has now been signed up by leading erotica specialists, House Of Erotica and is now listed on Amazon as Cougar Erotica. Ooooh my word. You can buy it in paperback and as an e-book at many leading online retailers. LMGTFY. (Top right in HOE's current releases.)

Meanwhile, the editing on Drowning, the sequel to My Adventures in Cyberspace, continues. Rome wasn't built in a day and nor were Jude's semi-autobiographical novels. Drowning will be published by Fleur De Lys Publishing in Spring 2014 and there will be a book launch in Sheffield and possibly in London too. Watch this space...

House of Erotica (a subsidiary to the major publishers Andrews) have requested a sequel to Mother-in-Law, Son-in-Law, and Jude is 10K into the writing of A Passion of Classic Cars featuring the same main characters from Mother-in-Law, Son-in-Law. But who is shagging whom this time, hmmm? Again, watch this space. Jude hopes to complete the novel this summer ready for immediate publication.

Labrats is currently being edited and will be published sometime in 2014. So by the end of 2014 Jude will have five novels out. Not bad for someone to whom all and sundry were sneering "You'll never be a writer" only five short years ago...

"If you can't beat 'em, fuck 'em. Then beat 'em." ~ Jude Calvert-Toulmin


© Jude Calvert-Toulmin 2010

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