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Book review: Kingdom of Cooks, by Andy Lynes

13 March 2015 by
Book review: Kingdom of Cooks, by Andy Lynes

Kingdom of Cooks
By Andy Lynes
Self-published, available via the Kindle store, £2.99

Kingdom of Cooks features the transcripts of interviews by Andy Lynes as he trawled the length and breadth of the country, visiting 13 of some of the newest and most exciting culinary establishments.

Lynes, a food writer and occasional contributor to The Caterer, selected his subjects because they were either in their first head chef position or were running their first restaurant. Generally, they are not well-known, but an exception is Simon Rogan, who is included as a 'godfather' figure.

His was the name the chefs mentioned most when asked who they admired or whose food impressed them. It is the other chefs, though, that
are of greatest interest, because their stories have not been told previously.

All have undergone a relentlessly hard slog to get to where they are today. Punishing hours and ridiculous demands from bosses have been endured
across the board. However, all have shown determination to end up heading a kitchen or running their own business.

There are some fascinating insights, such as an explanation behind the naming of Gary Usher's Sticky Walnut restaurant; the journey undertaken by Matthew and Iain Pennington from deli workers to operators of the sustainable Ethicurean restaurant; and the challenges Mary Ellen McTague of the Aumbry restaurant faced as a female chef.

I'm not fully convinced by the question and answer format: there are occasions when the replies become rambling and would have benefited from some editing. And I would have liked to have known more about what Lynes himself thought.

I liked the premise of the book, though, and it brought to mind the two volumes of Great British Chefs by Kit Chapman and referenced by Lynes in his introduction.

I have always thought there was an opportunity for Chapman's superb take on the leading British culinary talents of the time to be updated. Lynes goes some way towards achieving that.

By Janet Harmer

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