An Interview with Renowned Broadcaster, Journalist, Television Presenter, and Food Critic/Editor Extraordinaire: Bill Buckley

I had the privilege of having Bill Buckley interview me on BBC Radio Berkshire not so long ago, and I admit that I was quite star-struck after having seen him on the TV as a judge for various cooking contest programmes. I had also read a number of his restaurant reviews, and had seen him on morning news shows on BBC and ITV. When I told friends about my interview, the overwhelming response was “SHUT UP!” or “NO WAY! – aren’t you SCARED?!”  But, Bill’s charm and fab sense of humour quickly put me at ease. He was so open and friendly, helpful and yes, sweet, but you never quite believe a famous person when they say: “Please keep in touch,” do you?  So imagine my surprise when Bill agreed to let me interview HIM!  Actually, I shouldn’t have been surprised; he really is as lovely in real life as he is on TV and radio. And, he cooks, too!

There were so many questions I wanted to ask him. I’ve interviewed people before, for jobs, for events, speaker bio write-ups, etc., but with Bill, he had such wonderful stories to tell so it was more of a conversation rather than a “Q&A.”  Here’s what we chatted about…

Jen: Inquiring minds want to know, Bill, how does one become a food critic/food editor?  It seems like the best job in the world!

Bill:  “Well, I’ve always been very interested in food.  I never had to be told to finish my dinner when I was a child, then when I left home, I became interested not only in eating food, but in cooking it, as well. My brain also absorbs all kinds of facts about food.”

When Bill was given the opportunity to produce and present his own radio programme, and since he loved the subject of food so much, he began talking about food matters on air, as well as writing about his interests in the radio station’s companion magazine. Technically, this was his first “job” as a food editor.  One day, he was interviewing a home economist on air, who suggested that Bill become part of the Guild of Food Writers. Bill sent the Guild cassette tapes (now that’s old-school!) of his radio work, and copies of his TV appearances, and was accepted into the Guild of Food Writers.

Bill’s introduction into the world of food-critiquing was also through chance, as a friend of his who was already writing for View London nominated him as a writer. And, voila!  Now Bill has done over 100 restaurant reviews, as well as written articles for Yes Chef! Mazagine.  

So, through a combination of hard work and the encouragement and recommendations by friends and contacts, Bill has travelled the UK and the world eating food and writing about it, “all always underpinned by my love of food.”

Jen: You’re obviously a keen foodie and you get to eat at and review so many restaurants. What kinds of food / dessert trends are you seeing lately?

Bill:  “I’m noticing, even in London, a trend towards more ‘sensible, eatable’ food.  Perhaps due to this economic climate, and the need to feel comforted, and perhaps not wanting to take silly risks, I have noticed that more restaurants are offering menus full of dishes you’d actually want to eat!  Things seem to be going towards a more traditional, less ‘show-y,’ comforting style. But we are also very fortunate with the sheer diversity we have here, so fusion foods continue to be popular. This is the best country to live in, as we’re influenced by so many.”

Jen: “With regard to puddings {that’s DESSERT in the States}, I’ve noticed restaurants doing more interesting things with ice cream flavours. I’ve also been very pleased to see proper British puddings returning, like crumbles with proper custard!  I have even spotted “Le crumble au pommes avec le sauce anglaise” in Paris… apple crumble with custard!”

And, speaking of the French – are they the best bakers in the world?

Bill:  “Well, an apple crumble in a bowl may never look as refined as a slice of tarte au pomme, so the French do have a flair for presentation.  But you certainly can’t beat a good ol’ British pudding!”

Jen: So, which fabulous British ingredients and dishes are your favourites, Bill?

Bill: “I love fish as an ingredient. It’s so easy to cook compared to other ingredients. I actually either love very fishy-fish, like mackerel, or very white, pure, delicate fish like sole or skate <middle>.  One of my favourite dishes to cook is mackerel with salsa verde and chips. When I’m in Birmingham, I buy my fish fresh from the Birmingham market, which also has a wonderful outdoor market for fruit and veg.”

“For dessert, I do like lemon drizzle cake, or coffee and walnut cake, but I am an ice-cream man through and through!  I love ice-creams and sorbets, and make my own at home. I actually remember buying my Gaggia ice cream maker over a decade ago, and recall using an additional percentage off coupon so I could buy the 300 GBP Gaggia for only 225 GBP!  But it’s with me to this day, so it was well worth the investment.”

“One of my favourite home made ice creams is from a recipe I found on-line: raspberry ice cream made with frozen raspberries, cream, icing sugar, lemon and a bit of framboise. It’s a stunningly good ice cream, perfect drizzled with a dark chocolate and chilli sauce.”

Jen: Those sound amazing, but which dishes, or ingredients, really work well together but sound awful ‘written down’?

Bill:  “Marmite and eggs!  Well, marmite with scrambled eggs on toast. It’s one of the very few things I actually have in common with Margaret Thatcher, who apparently adored it.”

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Jen: { I actually tried Marmite and scrambled eggs myself – just had to!  You know what? It was actually really good! }

When Bill starred alongside Esther Rantzen on BBC1’s “That’s Life,” the show received “strange recipes” which Bill had been challenged to create. A few notable ones were: courgette cake, Ritz cracker pie, and tomato soup cake.  I asked him which one was his favourite.

“The Ritz pie, with the Ritz replacing apples, was curious because it actually did work. You just had to make sure you had enough seasoning and spice with the Ritz crackers, like nutmeg, to trick your brain into thinking it was apple. But, my favourite was the tomato soup cake, as tomato is quite sweet, and the cake was a lovely, pretty pale pink colour.”

And, last, but not least, as there will be at least a few home-bakers reading this, I wanted to get your view on what food critics look for when eating cake? Because it’s true – you never know who might be biting into your baked creation(s)…
“I look for very competent execution: is it really well-risen, is the texture even?  In a cherry cake, for example, is there an even distribution of cherries?  Seriously good technique and classic, lovely things put together make a good cake, rather than showmanship often times.  Less is very often more, with maybe one or two great flavours.  And, really, good old fashioned technique, made with care and love, and Granny’s ‘know-how’.”

You can read more about the multi-talented Bill Buckley here: 


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Originally posted 2012-05-07 00:00:00.