Thomasina Miers is a former BBC Masterchef winner and co-owner of Mexican restaurant group Wahaca, which is set to launch its third London site in Canary Wharf next month. She talked to Kerstin Kühn.
Caterer You won Masterchef in 2005. How did that change your life?
Thomasina Miers Clarissa Dickson Wright was the one who really encouraged me to cook. I met her about two years before Masterchef and it was thanks to her support that I decided to follow my dream. Gregg Wallace and John Torode of Masterchef gave me the confidence that I could cook professionally - they were a huge inspiration. I met my business partner, Mark Selby, about a year after winning Masterchef, and we travelled to Mexico together and came up with the idea for Wahaca. We launched our first restaurant in Covent Garden in 2007 and then opened a second site at Westfield last year.
CatererWestfield turns one this month. How are things going for you there?
TM It's going really well. There aren't a lot of Mexican restaurants in the area, so we're really busy, and we've got a whole lot of recruits from the Prince's Trust working there, which is great. I'm hoping Westfield will launch some sort of farmers' market in the future. I'd love to get involved in something like that.
Caterer You're about to launch your third site. Tell us more.
TM It's in Canary Wharf, overlooking possibly the only bit of greenery in the area. It's a 150-seat restaurant on the first floor with a big second-floor terrace. We launched a competition and got a graffiti artist to design one of our walls, so it's a really exciting site. Roka's about to open and Jamie's Italian is near by, so there's a real buzz to the area.
Caterer Jamie Oliver recently criticised Mexican food in the UK, saying no one does it well. What's your response?
TM I know for a fact that Jamie loves Wahaca, so I didn't take offence at his comments. I think he meant what he said in a more general way, and he does have a point: there really aren't many authentic Mexican restaurants in the UK, especially outside London. If you look at the amazing Indian, Thai or Chinese restaurants we have, there really is no Mexican equivalent.
Caterer You're involved in the British Street Food Awards. What are they about?
TM The awards celebrate the diversity of our food culture and recognise the best of our street food vendors. I'm part of the panel of judges which will compile a shortlist for a big cook-off at the Ludlow Food Festival in September 2010. Street food is my favourite type of eating, as it's all about fresh produce being prepared right in front of you.
Caterer What's next?
TM I'm publishing a book next March called Mexican Food Made Simple. It's an introduction to authentic Mexican food with recipes from all over the country, and it's designed to get people to cook, share and enjoy the food.