Jay Rayner reveals his food commandments at Horsham Capitol

Jay Rayner. Picture by Levon Biss, www.levonbiss.com
Jay Rayner. Picture by Levon Biss, www.levonbiss.com

The original Ten Commandments have very little to offer when it comes to the complex business of how and what we eat.

Now the award-winning restaurant critic and Masterchef judge Jay Rayner has decided it’s time to act.

Billing himself as our new culinary Moses, restaurant critic Jay Rayner will deliver his wisdom at Horsham’s Capitol on Thursday, October 6, presenting a new set of hand-tooled commandments for our food-obsessed age.

After a successful run of live dates in 2014-16 that featured Jay’s previous publication, My Dining Hell, and saw him examine our love affair with lousy reviews, Jay is embarking on a whole new tour. The Ten (Food) Commandments combines reportage and anecdotes with recipes worthy of adoration.

With an accompanying book, he deals with questions like whether it’s OK to covet thy neighbour’s oxen (it is), eat with your hands (very important) and whether you should cut off the fat (no).

“The show is almost entirely to do with how we eat,” Jay explains. “There is a lot about cooking, and also about left-overs. Left-overs are a modern invention. The idea of these things that are left over after we have eaten the main meal didn’t exist until the invention of the domestic refrigerator.”

In fact, as Jay points out, an American refrigeration company came up with the first usage of the word left-overs. Before that there was just food: the beef on the Sunday, which by the Thursday became the soup.

Since then, in effect, food has become too cheap – and left-overs have piled up.

“In 1900, we spent 50 per cent of our income on food. Now it is 11 per cent. Arguably it is too little. We don’t pay enough for our food for its impact on the environment or on itself. We don’t pay enough for it and so we treat it with disdain and we throw it out – while in fact some of the best gastric adventures come out of what we don’t eat at first.”

The stats are appalling: every year we throw out enough food to fill Wembley stadium to the top seven times: “I think there is a growing understanding of the issue, but it is an obscenity quite apart from its environmental impact. There is a moral imperative to stop doing that.”

Things can change: “But I do fear, if I am honest, a class division. There is a debate around food that involves the middle classes with the money to think about it. It excludes a whole class of people who have more pressing things on their minds…”

Eating out also comes under Jay’s scrutiny, particularly the need to be careful who you eat with. As a critic, he’s very alert to the slow orderers, the slow eaters and the interferers.

“People assume that there is something mechanistic going on, some process, but they forget that I am the one writing the column and that when the waiter comes round and asks if everything is fine, then my companion is instructed to say nothing more than ‘fine’. It is utterly passive-aggressive, but it then leaves me completely free to say that it was terrible or brilliant afterwards in the column!”

Jay is best known for his work as a Masterchef judge and restaurant critic for the Observer. He is a former Critic of the Year and Restaurant Critic of the Year, and in the 2014 British Press Awards he was shortlisted for both Critic of the Year and Specialist Journalist of the Year.

Jay’s Capitol show includes a Q&A session. Call the box office on 01403 750220 or visit www.thecapitolhorsham.com.

Win a signed copy of Jay’s book

To be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of Jay Rayner’s latest book simply answer this question. Email your answer to tracey.grubb@horsham.gov.uk at The Capitol by 5pm on Tuesday, October 4.

Jay Rayner is also a musician and plays in a jazz quartet. Which instrument does he play?

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