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Best of times, worst of times: Tony Kirwan

Categories: Behind the stalls

The likes and dislikes of Utobeer’s Tony Kirwan

Fantasy job
It would be coaching, either sports or martial arts. My college had links to Charlton Athletic, so I had the opportunity to do an NVQ in coaching. I also achieved my FA levels 1 and 2 coaching badges, so I can coach children up to the age of 16 in basic skills, as well as the dietary and psychological aspects of the sport.

Favourite holiday
I went on a school exchange trip to Tokyo when I was 15. It was an amazing experience and I would really love to go back. There was a serenity to the place even though it’s a major city. Growing up here you think cities are all like London, but going to another metropolis where things are approached in such a different way made me think that we could do things so much better.

Favourite dish as a child
Chip shop chips. I used to be a connoisseur. I knew all the chip shops in southeast London and knew the perfect ratio of salt and vinegar. I’ve diversified a bit now.

Signature dish
Paella with a bit of a Tony twist. It was originally poor people’s food and they used things from the fields where they were working, such as rabbit, so I don’t get too precious about it. There is a really nice one I make, which I adapt for vegetarians. I like the fact that with some preparation and care, you can feed a ton of people some really good food.

Best meal out
It was at the Rosemary Lane restaurant by Tower Bridge. It’s been converted from an old pub and is a lovely place. I had slow roast belly of pork with red wine sauce, black eye beans and roasted veg. It sounds simple but it was all beautifully done and the pork was the most succulent I have ever had. It was also my first date with Amy, who I have been with for eight years now. So I remember it not just for the meal, but for the occasion.

Favourite drink
The easy answer is beer. But there is a specific beer that I have developed a taste for, which is made by a brewery called Rogue River, called Dead Guy Ale. For me, they have found the perfect blend of malt and hops; it is kind of the nirvana of beers in my experience. I’ve had to start getting mine from somewhere else so that Utobeer customers can buy some.

Favourite historical figure
Genghis Khan. I know that might seem controversial, as he was a cruel man in many ways, but I think he had some admirable traits. He was very open-minded whenever he came across new ideas and technology. He also treated previous enemies very well.

He had an incredibly brutal and unpleasant early life but went on to unite the Mongol people. I am not saying that his methods were laudable, but the ability to drag yourself up from the brink of starvation to being one of the world’s greatest figures is amazing.

Biggest sporting hero
When I was a child I really looked up to Colin Hendry, who captained the Scottish football team. He was a tall, blonde, very Nordic looking guy who was the epitome of a staunch centre-back at the time. In my footballing career I didn’t have the skills to be anything other than a staunch centre-back. He had real commitment which was something I tried to emulate when I played.

Favourite album
Lateralus by a band called Tool, who are a progressive rock band. As a 17-year-old I used to sit on my windowsill with the sun streaming in listening to this album. It was almost like a spiritual experience listening to that album for the first time.

Worst thing about growing up
When you’re a kid you can act like a bit of a lunatic and get away with it. When you grow up that’s more difficult. Which is a bit of a problem because it’s still part of my nature.

Favourite relaxation method
Just sitting around playing with my jack russell Roxy. She is only a year old and is so calm and relaxed. She just takes all the tension away.

Best gig
Blaze Bayley, who has his own band but was in Iron Maiden for a while. I saw him in a tiny place called The Underground in Camden. It was very cheesy heavy metal. I had taken a friend who wasn’t really into the music, he just came along because it was my birthday and he went absolutely wild. He loved it after that and we ended up going to festivals. It really cemented a friendship.

Best book 
The Fort, by Bernard Cornwell. It is based on a battle between the British and Americans during the war of independence. The nuances of the war really come through in the tactics and strategy. It delves into the cultural and political tensions between the two sides.

Worst meal
It goes back to that trip to Japan when I was at school. We had been well drilled in things you should and should not do in order to be respectful, including never turning away food. On the first morning, I was taken downstairs for breakfast. I was 15 years old, jetlagged, and they made me a plate that was absolutely stuffed full of prawns. At the time the concept of seafood was just alien to me.

I took one of the prawns (which were unpeeled) and stuffed the whole thing into my mouth with a loud crunch. The whole family—there were three generations around the table—reached forward shouting “No, no!” I panicked a bit about insulting them, so my reaction was to say “This is how I like them.” I cleared the whole plate. It was awful, but the response I had from the family was one of awe, respect and wonder.

Best hangover cure
Bloody mary.