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Best of times, worst of times: Justine Cather

Categories: Behind the stalls

The likes and dislikes of Justine Cather, owner of Whirld

Fantasy job
Travel photographer. I am bit of a people watcher, so I would love observing different people and cultures. I would be very happy photographing them for a living.

Worst job
Working in Kentucky Fried Chicken when I was at university. I lasted two weeks, hated every minute and haven’t eaten a mouthful of fast food since the day I left.

Last good film you saw
I recently saw The Darjeeling Limited, a Wes Anderson film. I love the quirky way he sees things. It’s about these three spoilt brothers going across India by train to try and bond after their father dies. It is all about their discoveries, the way their relationships develop and things that happen to them along the way.

Worst film
We recently sat with our kids to watch Big Trouble in Little China, an action film from the 1980s starring Kurt Russell, who I normally like. The film was so unbelievable that it was ridiculous. Even my sons who are 11 and 14 asked if we had to finish watching it—so we didn’t.

Favourite TV series
Better Call Saul. It’s a spin-off series from Breaking Bad and is about one of the characters, Saul Goodman, as a younger man. It is funny, warm and brilliantly written. He is such an endearing character even though he gets up to lots of dodgy things. It is just very entertaining.

Favourite holiday destination
Spain. I love all parts of the country. I spent six months in Salamanca and really grew to love the inland part of the country.

Favourite dish as a child
I grew up in Singapore where there were these small street vendors selling chicken satays on skewers. They were absolutely delicious and I have never tasted anything like them since. They were cooked on these little charcoal grills and served with spicy peanut sauce with cucumber. I can smell them now just talking about them.

Signature dish
I love all Middle Eastern food and my signature dish would be something called tah-chin. It is a Persian dish with layers of chicken and saffron and rice which are cooked in a deep frying pan. Cooking it in the pan gives it a crunchy base which holds the whole dish in place. To serve it, you turn the whole thing upside down and cut into it like a cake. It is absolutely delicious.

Worst kitchen disaster
It was my first really grown up dinner party after getting married. I was all excited and made this salad which combined chicken, salad leaves and bananas. I thought that I was being really sophisticated and out there, but I can still see our dinner guests just pushing their food around their plates. I vividly remember the collective sigh of relief when I admitted that it was not very good and suggested we should maybe order something in.

Worst day at work
In the early days I was making a 45kg vat of fudge and burnt it. I didn’t know how to rescue it and in the end had to throw it away. Almost the worst part was that it was already late and I was running behind schedule. I just had to start again and didn’t get home until the middle of the night, covered in fudge, and in an appalling mood.

Favourite subject at school
Geography. My mum was a geography teacher and I travelled a lot as a kid. The fact that geography was about different countries was very interesting to me.

Least favourite subject at school
History, but looking back I think that was because I had a teacher who made me think that history was all about learning dates. My eldest son is learning history now and what he’s doing seems really interesting.

Favourite drink
I do like a glass of ice cold fino sherry. A small bar in Seville on a beautiful day with a glass of fino would be one version of heaven.

Favourite historical figure
Martin Luther King. His stance against racism and prejudice of all kinds and his vision of a unified society are hugely inspiring.

Favourite album
Trouble by Ray LaMontagne. He has an amazing voice and the title song Trouble is heart-breaking but gorgeous.

Favourite gig
Martin Stephenson & The Daintees. His music is a mix of folk and rock styles—happy and uplifting. I remember seeing him at a gig years ago and he had the whole crowd really buzzing. He had a big band and some of them came into the crowd while playing; it was just a party atmosphere. I recently saw him again after what must have been 25 years and he was exactly the same. It was a wonderful vibe.

Favourite thing about London
I love the fact that it is constantly changing. The city is constantly taking in new people and ideas; it makes them its own and never stands still.

Relaxation of choice
Watching a movie, preferably a good one, with my family.

Favourite city
New York. It is an amazing city. We have been three times and feel like we have only just scratched the surface. We are just beginning to see a whole other side to the city. It is just such an interesting place.

Favourite book
Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. I love his style of writing.

Hangover cure
Ice cold, full fat Coke from a can.