Ferociously bright and not short of a word, Giles Coren is a food critic, TV star and acclaimed writer. We catch up with Giles at home…
Whether escaping with Giles to amazing hotels or exploring historical culinary delights, life is never dull.
Educated at The Hall School in London followed by Westminster he then went on to read English at Oxford. With the intellectual wit of his father (Alan) and journalistic brilliance of his sister (Victoria) it is not surprising he landed where he is today. Although this was not the direction he intended. “I was not only my dad’s son arriving at Oxford but also my little sister’s older brother. I therefore wanted to be a novelist or poet to differentiate myself. I remember thinking, as long as I don’t end up writing numerous columns in an English national broadsheet I’ll be fine!”
With a first class degree from Oxford, Giles found himself “over qualified and under experienced. I couldn’t even get back the old bar job I used to have in the 80’s”. Depressed by the lack of opportunities in the motherland, he upped sticks and followed his girlfriend to Paris where he landed a cushy job working for Ralph Lauren “they were looking for the English public school boy who looked the part”. Earning a ‘proper’ salary enabled him to regularly wine and dine and soon his love of food blossomed into an in-depth knowledge of all this Gastronomique. It was this love of food and intricate knowledge of every aspect of cooking combined with a brilliant turn of literary phrase that shaped the Giles we know today. “I spoke fluent French, I knew every single cheese, taught myself to cook and had eaten in every Michelin starred restaurant.”
“I spoke fluent French, I knew every single cheese, taught myself to cook and had eaten in every Michelin starred restaurant.”
Back on home soil, his combination of talents eventually led him to becoming a food critic. “The year in France had paid off ” but he is keen to highlight that it was not his passion for food but his knowledge that got him where he is today. “Everyone is passionate about food – we all have to eat three times a day but it is the knowledge that counts.” Then followed a successful and on-going career as a writer and food critic for The Times, a novelist (he was the co-author for James Dyson’s autobiography) and features writer for Esquire, Tatler, and GQ. Never afraid to tell it how it is his witty reviews always get attention and not always for the right reasons!
When asked what is the most important attribute for being a food critic he’s quick to point out that everyone can love food but you need to be able to write about it. “Learn to write is the key thing – write everyday – the food thing comes later. If you can’t write it’s not going to happen.”
Stepping onto our screens was a natural progression, Giles looked the part, knew his stuff and was guaranteed to keep us entertained. “I got into TV as I was the only restaurant critic that wasn’t fat and was reasonably handsome!” The Supersizers with Sue Perkins, Back in Time for Dinner and Eat to Live Forever are just some of the many food programmes and documentaries that Giles has fronted. “The hotel thing (Amazing Hotels: Life beyond the lobby) then grew out of food and I was incredibly fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.”
Happily married to the gorgeous Esther and with two kids, Kitty and Sam, life is pretty good although travelling away from family is tough. When they first got together Esther didn’t like cooking. But now, not only can Esther cook, she has also published cookbooks and was the brain behind the hilarious food blog Recipe Rifle. As Giles says tongue in cheek “I married her for her body and then she taught herself to cook!”
His favourite restaurant is Singapore Garden in Fairfax Road where “You eat spicy food, drink lots of cold beer and leave sober but exhilarated!” When asked to name his favourite hotel hefinds this harder. On reflection he decides that Giraffe Manor in South Africa is truly magical. “It’s like an Edwardian golf club but with giraffes!”
Looking ahead, there will be another series of Amazing Hotels which will see Giles and Monica Galetti experiencing the best of Scotland, Venice, India, St Lucia and the Alps. He is also fronting a programme – Eating the Years showing on BBC 2 this Christmas. For this The Fat Duck of 1997 will be brought back to its heyday with the same menu, staff and even the celebrities who ate there.
When asked what his motto for life is, Giles quickly replies “It’s not long so hold your breath” then true to character after a bit of soul searching he borrows a line from a Julian Barnes novel: “Never make the mistake of comparing the inside of your life with the outside of someone else’s.”
“Never make the mistake of comparing the inside of your life with the outside of someone else’s.”
The Coren Clan’s Festive Food Tips!
Christmas at the Corens will be a blast. Guaranteed delicious food, copious amounts to eat, lots of laughs, children running wild and politically incorrect conversation!
Always have a ham on hand
Always rest the Turkey for longer than you think before eating
Time Christmas lunch around the roast potatoes
Mulled wine with roasted almonds and sweetened with dried fruit, steeped for 24 hrs
Lots of Jamie Oliver winter coleslaw