Wild by Tart join us for the latest instalment of The Chef’s Table.
Jones and Lucy Carr-Ellison – the duo behind Wild by Tart and Tart London (the London catering company feted by the city’s most fashionable) – share their favourite cookbooks, choice of lip-smacking dishes, and other foodie secrets in this week’s The Chef’s Table.
How did you first get into cooking?
Jemima: From a very young age, my mum would plonk me on the kitchen counter, as a way of keeping me in one spot, I remember watching her make things like homemade mayonnaise and fresh pesto. I remember learning the magic of the béchamel sauce and the excitement watching lots of cheese melting into it, I was obsessed (and still am) with mac and cheese.
Lucy: From day dot, I have always loved cooking. I used to hold suppers for my extended family from about the age of five!
What are some of your childhood food memories?
Lucy: My mum in the kitchen, cooking amazing things for us! My first holiday I as a child was in Cornwall where we would walk down the coast with my Godfather and pick mussels, bring them home and cook them on the BBQ!
Jemima: Having gnocchi for the first time in Lucca (Tuscany) when I was five, at a small family run trattoria, and being transported to heaven; I still remember those silky pillowy delights!
Another amazing memory I have was going back to Toronto (where I was born) and going to one of the many amazing Vietnamese restaurants there. I remember sitting at a long table with my family sharing big bowls of cold Vietnamese noodles with lots of crunchy and fresh texture topped with sizzling hot crispy pork spring rolls.
Who most influenced your cooking?
Jemima: Again, my mum! She was very ahead of the times back in the 90s. She would drive across town, every Saturday morning, to Queensway to one of the only grocers that sold big peppery leaves of rocket at the time, and then make me nibble the leaves in the car home.
Lucy: Before we started Tart I worked on shoots with the wonderful April and Lucy Potts, who are wonderful effortless cooks, I learnt a lot from them. In more recent years Skye Gyngell and Nigel Slater have and still influence my/our cooking.
The food that makes you happiest and why?
Lucy: Pasta, I could eat every day!
Jemima: A good noodle soup, like a ramen or a pho. I love the play on contrasts, with flavour and texture and feels very nurturing and fulfilling.
Favourite cooking gadget?
Both: Microplane grater.
A Year In My Kitchen by Skye Gyngell; A Change Of Appetite by Diana Henry; Duck Soup by Gjelina; Flavour and Plenty More, both by Ottolenghi; Rive Café Cook Book (the blue one); all of Nigel Slater’s books; Jane Grigson’s Vegetable and Fruit Books; The Food Thesaurus.
What’s the one ingredient you can’t live without?
Both: Garlic and sea salt.
Where are the best places to shop for produce in London?
Both: Parkway Greens (Camden Town), Ginger Pig (Marylebone), La Fromagerie (Marylebone), Giacobazzis (Hampstead), La Petite Poissonnerie (Primrose Hill), Little Bread Pedlar (Primrose Hill).
How does travel influence your cooking?
Both: We plan our trips around inspiring lunches and dinners; this is the most exciting part of the trip! Our cooking has become a melting pot of flavours and inspiration from around the world. All of our dishes are influenced by places we have been to whether it’s a restaurant, city, or country. We love finding new flavours, textures, and cooking methods and bringing it to our kitchen at home to experiment with.
Where are your favourite places to dine in London?
There are so many. Towpath Café, Quo Vadis, Duck Soup, Defune, Min Jiang, Sessions Art Club, Honey and Co, Luca, Petersham Nurseries, A Wong, River Café, Brat, The Smoking Goat, Rovi…
What do you always avoid ordering on a menu?
Jemima: Octopus and anything with raisins.
Lucy: I’m not a fan of sweetbreads.
By contrast, must-order items on a menu include…
Lucy: Trout ceviche or slow cooked lamb.
Jemima: Always partial to something crispy and fried like our arancini or the fresh pasta of the week.
Why do you think it’s important to gather round the table to eat?
Jemima: We both grew up in families where coming together to eat was sacred – both our mothers are wonderful cooks, real pillars of the family, and our fathers are very enthusiastic wine pourers! This coming together every day created a haven, a nurturing bubble, and enjoyment from the busy outside world.
What is your go-to meal at home when you’re low on time?
Lucy: Pasta! Or a quick sourdough bruschetta, a favourite of mine is avocado with smoked mackerel, basil, chilli, lime, and a good glug of olive oil.
Do you find cooking therapeutic?
Both: Yes, in a very profound and grounding way. After a long day of work, it’s like putting your roots back into the earth. With a glass of wine, music on, and something bubbling away.
Advice for women thinking about starting up a business in the food or restaurant industry?
Both: There will be people along the way who will try and influence and change your vision; it’s always best to stay true to your style and ethos, as this is what will be the driving force to your business and stand you apart from everyone else.