Best of times, worst of times: Zoe Tew

Categories: Behind the stalls

The likes and dislikes of Zoe Tew, stall manager at Mrs King’s Pork Pies

Potraits: Orlando Gili

Fantasy job
You could say I’m already doing it. I love being in the Market—I was a customer for 10 years before I got the job here, I got it because I’d gotten to know the stall holder. Other than this, I’d say head of a jewellers, or head of English Heritage. I love working in people-orientated environments, and history and jewellery. And food.

Worst job
When I was a student, I got a part-time job in the holidays packing skirts in a warehouse and it was horrible. The skirts were foul as well. I managed four days—that’s enough for a lifetime.

Favourite holiday destination
I haven’t been to many places, for various reasons, so anywhere really! I have friends who live in Norway, which is stunning. I would love to go around the Caribbean, the Bahamas, or to see the Grand Canyon. And I love Europe, particularly Venice.

Favourite childhood dish
My mum was a really good cook, she was always experimenting—we were sick of chilli con carne before many people knew what it was over here—so it’s hard to choose one in particular. My biggest memory is probably Sunday lunch, with the grandparents and the five of us—having big roasts and doing that whole family thing. Even if we did whinge about who was taking the grandparents home and who was doing the washing up. I look back and think, I am so lucky to have had that kind of childhood.

Signature dish
I love roasting pheasant. That’s my favourite thing. We have a secret sauce that we make with it—we saw it in the Telegraph in the sixties and about every 12 years, they re-publish it and we think no! It’s our family secret. If you ask anyone around here, if they don’t get my brownie squares or fudge at Christmas there are big sulks. And I make a mean lemon and blueberry cake. I do a lot of baking.

Zoe Tew

Best recent meal
The other night I got in really late, I was really cold and I’d got some Bread Ahead sourdough and really nice strong cheddar cheese and I had cheese on toast—I’ve had some amazing meals in my life, but sometimes something simple just hits the spot.

Worst kitchen disaster
I can’t think of one—normally you can rescue stuff. That, or I have poor tastebuds and will eat any old rubbish. But I like to think I’m a pretty good cook.

Worst meal
I’ve not had any particularly, but if someone gave me a meal with fried eggs, shellfish or figs, washed down with milk, I would die. I’m allergic to shellfish, and I have tried to eat figs all my life—sweet, savoury, cooked, raw, picked straight off the tree—and I just don’t like them.

Worst school subject
Maths. I remember being in the loos and having to basically physically pick myself up by my hair and drag myself to maths class. We were all terrified of our maths teacher—if you didn’t get it right first time you didn’t dare say so, so you’d end up lagging behind.

Favourite school subject
English and history. That’s what I ended up studying at university. My favourite period of history is probably the War of the Roses. I’m a big Richard III fan—I’m going to dig up his grave and move him back to York Minster, bloody Leicester shouldn’t be allowed to keep him—and I love Shakespeare. But if I were to have done an MA, it would’ve been on Thomas Middleton.

Food hero
Gordon Ramsay. He was the first big chef I was aware of, whose food I ate—I went to Aubergine before he’d really been on TV and he actually came out and met us. He was so nice. I like him; he calls a spade a spade. People say he’s shouty, but when he left Aubergine all his staff went with him—people don’t do that if they don’t respect somebody. And my mum. She’s a really good cook. She can eat a meal in a restaurant and work out exactly what went in it. I wouldn’t have cooked if it wasn’t for her. Growing up, Saturday afternoon was baking time. 

Favourite thing about London
It’s got a buzz. When I first came down to London, I felt like any minute now my life could change completely. I think London still has that about it: there’s always something new, something going on.

Worst thing about London
People who can’t get off their phone walking up the stairs of the underground, so they walk painfully slowly then stop at the top playing Candy Crush.

Favourite city
After London, probably York. It’s stunning. I lived there for eight years and when I was there it had 365 pubs, a racecourse and two chocolate factories. What’s not to like?

Favourite book
I never go anywhere without a book. And I need to read off paper, not a screen. I love the Jane Austen novels, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. So many. It depends what mood I’m in.

Favourite drink
Ice-cold water. Champagne. Ginger beer. Cider. Not all in the same glass.

Least favourite drink
I don’t do milk. I drank milk that was off when I was about six—a big pint glass, and I drank half of it before the taste hit. As a consequence, I have gone off eggs, I can’t bear blue cheese, single cream, plain yoghurt. Some days I can’t even pick up a milk carton if it’s wet. 

Hangover cure
There is no cure—just suck it up and deal with it.