When I was a student one lady kept me from living off TV dinners. This was not a talented girlfriend, I couldn’t get one despite all my drunken efforts. The lady in question was Delia Smith.
I grew up in a household where my mother’s cooking was famous. Kids everywhere in the village lived in fear of being invited around for dinner. We didn’t have a kitchen timer, we were early adopters of the smoke detector. Not so much cordon bleu but cordon noir. OK, I think you get the picture.
Cookbooks became a big part of my life and I probably almost self-taught myself to cook. Now I have a section of over 300 of them in my library. Delia started it all off and the worn copy takes pride of place on the shelves.
Then there are other books that food folks get opinionated about. The guides or the “bibles” of the restaurant world. Like any other bible, different populations tend to get drawn to one of them. There are four in the UK; Michelin, AA, Good Food Guide and Hardens. Some food critics tend to hold opinions about particular chefs and will never let them do anything bad or good depending on their past relationships. Other critics tend to be very fair and judge each experience afresh. It is probably with the last group that the guides sit. Unlike online popularity sites which can be gamed by callous restaurateurs, the guides are truthful reflections of a venue.
This brings me on to the hero of this story. Just this last week we found out that 99 Station Street in Burton had got into the Good Food Guide. A feat in itself, but this is the fifth year in a row they have made it. Only half a dozen or so make it from Staffordshire each year. Only one has made it over the last five years at all from Burton on Trent. So congratulations to Daniel and George on a job well done.
My favourite book? Not sure. The signed copy of a Keith Floyd book or the signed copy of 3 Star Chef, by Gordon Ramsay? Either way, I'm sure I would have had more success getting a girlfriend if I had studied under Floyd in those early years...
Ross Boardman is author of “101 Restaurant Secrets” and an award winning restaurateur.