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Best of times, worst of times: Laurence Verfaillie

Categories: Behind the stalls

The likes and dislikes of Laurence of Bath Soft Cheese

Worst recent film
I avoid films. Once I went with my family—we wanted to see a movie but it was full, so we ended up seeing a remake of a classic French comedy and it was just dreadful. All of us wanted to leave but my mother did not want to go halfway through so we suffered through it.

Favourite holiday
This year I went to Brittany, last year I went to Brittany, three years ago, Brittany. I have a real soft spot. I did a lot of sailing there as a kid. I just love it. I’m not too bothered about lying on the beach and getting a sun tan, I like to be active and see beautiful scenery, and it’s just absolutely gorgeous.

Favourite childhood dish
I think veal escalope, Milanese style—my mum usually made it on Wednesday or Thursday and I absolutely loved that. I also loved the thin sausages you get in France, and chicory wrapped in ham with béchamel sauce—that’s the one actually. My mum makes it when I go back to see her, which is quite sweet.

Signature dish
Do I cook? Hell yes! I love cooking. I am quite good at what we call duck parmentier, which is basically shredded duck topped with mashed potato. You put it in the oven, and it’s beautiful. It’s my winter signature dish. And I make a mean chocolate and pear tart as well. And salted caramel mousse. And a cavolo nero pesto which I adore.

Best recent meal
On holiday in Brittany, the hotel we stayed in had a Michelin-starred restaurant attached to it. We had the most beautiful meal, all fish-based with a lot of interesting harmonies of flavour. It was very sophisticated. A real pleasure.

Laurence Verfaillie

Worst kitchen disaster
There are never disasters in my kitchen. It’s so small I can keep an eye on everything.

Favourite subject at school
I loved history. I still love history.

Least favourite subject
Physical education. I hated it—god! You had to force me.

Favourite drink
I love wine. I don’t drink very much, I would rather go for quality wine as opposed to quantity. I am quite confident in the choices I make. At the moment I am drinking a really lovely wine from Borough Wines, from the Loire Valley which is absolutely beautiful—nice and fresh and easy.

Worst drink
Spirits. Apart from whisky. I love whisky. I was stuck in bad weather in a festival in Scotland and the only consolation was the whisky. I absolutely hate vodka. It comes from a past life—once there was too much vodka in my vodka orange for a whole night and it made me very sick. It was Bobby from Primal Scream who had been spiking my drink—we were good friends, he thought he was doing something nice. But he wasn’t.

Food hero
My best friend Helen. She seems to make the most amazing comforting food out of random stuff she finds in her fridge. She does a real classical, almighty Sunday roast but she always manages to funk it up with a twist. Another good friend Kate who lives in Wales, she has a walled garden with a lot of herbs and vegetables and she tends to start classical and add a twist to it. I think they’re both amazingly inspired cooks. I love their cooking and their company.

Sporting hero
Zinedine Zidane. He was famous because he was so good and also because he battered an Italian player at the World Cup Final once. Even though he probably cost us a victory, I still love him.

Sporting villain
OJ Simpson. I saw that fabulous series on the BBC and I think he’s a guy who used his roots and denied his roots depending on what was best for his personal gain, regardless of the crime he may or may not have committed. I think that’s disgusting.

Favourite album
An album called Darklands, the second album by The Jesus and Mary Chain. They were a band that started around 1984 and were known for doing very angry, 20-minute long gigs with a lot of feedback on their guitars. In this album, they didn’t use so much of this extreme sound and the melodies really came through. It’s a beautiful album.

Best concert
Two: The Jesus and Mary Chain at the ICA, I had tinnitus for about three days after that. It was very raw, rough and brilliant. Primal Scream, who did an album called Screamadelica, which was absolutely groundbreaking. I went to the first gig they did on that tour in Manchester in ’91. It was mindblowing. A total revelation.

Favourite thing about London
The contrasts in sceneries. I love the parks—I’m not talking Hyde Park, I’m talking about Hampstead Heath, Hilly Fields, Brockwell, Victoria. The fact everybody just dumps into the parks when the weather is nice, I love that.

Least favourite thing about London
Minicab drivers. I sometimes wonder if these guys ever even got a driving license, they’re so erratic.

Favourite city
Paris is still my favourite city. I had the pleasure to live there for quite a long time, in a beautiful picturesque place in the middle. Now it’s very trendy, but I was next to the traditional Jewish quarter and on Saturdays you could hear a pin drop, everything was closed.

Favourite book
War and Peace, Tolstoy. I have read it so many times and I still discover things. Whenever I have to do a long-haul flight, I know I will notice things I haven’t before if I read it.

Hangover cure
I never do hangovers. I never overdrink—I do a lot of driving, so obviously I am very careful. I don’t get drunk. Famous last words.