Interview with Simon Rimmer

Chef and food writer Simon Rimmer is one of the mentors on Breaking into Tesco. Simon is the owner of Greens, an award-winning vegetarian restaurant in Manchester. He also presents ‘Grubs Up’ for ITV and is the in-house chef on BBC2’s ‘Something for the Weekend’.

How did you become involved with this project?
“Bizarrely I’m in the midst of doing a similar project myself with a food manufacturer. I was also in the midst of discussing television projects with Five, so when this came up, I thought it would be great idea to get involved.”

Do you think it important that the public develop an understanding of food production?
“No, not necessarily, although I think they’ll be surprised at how thorough food production is. People in food production really care about taste rather than just money. Yes, profits are important, but I was impressed by the level of intensity on even the simplest of dishes. I think the viewers will be too.”

As a chef, was it difficult for you to keep your distance from the contestants’ efforts?
“Hugely! I’m not only a chef, I’m also a control freak! However, I had to let them make some mistakes rather than guide them in a completely different direction. They need to have ownership of their own product otherwise it would just become something that I devised.”

Were you impressed by any of the products?
“Yes, lots of them. My three favourites were ‘Fruit Freezies’ (frozen fruit coated in yoghurt), Malaysian noodles and faggots.”

What were the strangest suggestions that you encountered?
“There was one girl who got knocked out early on who produced ‘Dog-and-Human Muffins’ – tasted awful, hardly surprising!”

How does cooking in a professional kitchen compare to mass production?
“There are similarities, especially when developing recipes. However, a development kitchen has to be far more precise –a gram of salt here, a gram of spice there. Professional restaurant kitchens have wider parameters. We’re dealing with fresh and different produce every day and a piece of meat or fish that needs slightly less seasoning one day might need slightly more the next.”

Supermarkets have been in the news a great deal lately. how do you feel about their dominance of the marketplace?
“It’s all about striking a balance. My passion is with local producers, good animal husbandry and the way crops are grown, and some of this does get incorporated into what supermarkets do as well. Not everything supermarkets do is bad. They get a lot of stick when a lot of what they do is actually quite good, and they also do source from quite a lot of small producers.”

Do you have any other television projects in the pipeline?
“Yes. Aside from Breaking into Tesco, I love filming ‘Something for the Weekend’ every Sunday on BBC2. My new show, ‘Recipe for Success’ also airs from March 3 on BBC2. I’m also about to film my fifth series of ‘Grubs Up’ for ITV, which is a real labour of love for me as it’s about regional food and producers. There’s some other really exciting projects in the pipeline too, one manoeuvring slightly away from food – I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a commission.”

About the author

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