Interview - Jay Rayner praises Yorkshire food scene

Jay Rayner isn’t a clichéd London-based food critic dismissing any restaurant located beyond the capital.

Wednesday, 4th March 2020, 5:44 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th March 2020, 5:44 pm
My Last Supper - Top food critic Jay Rayner who is bringing his new show to Harrogate Theatre.

In fact, the Masterchef judge and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Kitchen Cabinet is a vocal supporter of the food scene in the north, even taking to put his reputation on the line for a Harrogate restaurant Norse on one occasion.

Talking to the Harrogate Advertiser on the phone, Jay said: “In the past ten years, the range of restaurants has exploded in the north and Yorkshire.

“The idea that there were options worth looking at in Middlesborough or Harrogate was years was sneered at in London.

“It’s still tough to run restaurants of ambition but Yorkshire has developed massively in recent years."

Fans can catch his trademark mix of humour and sharpness when the Observer writer brings his new tour based on his latest book My Last Supper: One Meal A Lifetime In The Making at Harrogate Theatre on April 23.

Honest to a fault with a slicing wit, there’s also a swashbuckling side to the broadcaster’s personality reflected, perhaps, in his Three Musketeers beard and bullish posture.

Unsurprisingly, Jay Rayner’s new live show is no simple Q&A or conventional book signing.

Jay said: “What food means most to us is emotions and memories rather than simply flavour.

“For the tour, I’ve taken five key stories from my life and turned them into video walls.

“It’s all interactive. Audience members can tweet me and ask questions.”

Intimidating to some, a robust breath of fresh air to many others, Rayner puts himself into everything he does, risking his own reputation, his own neck.

He talks about how he has been trolled on Twitter himself after he, supposedly, used the word “effect” in the wrong context.

This part-time jazz musician jokingly admits he sometimes he wishes he would just shut up and let his writing do the talking.

Jay said: “We are both print journalists at heart.

“I write the shows for Kitchen Cabinet, as well as presenting them. If it succeeds it’s down to me and , if it fails, it’s down to me.

“It’s always pleasing to get good reviews but if you take too much personal affirmation from these things you have to accept the bad ones, too.”

Born in Brent, Rayner graduated in politics from Leeds University in 1988 and discovered the writing bug while editor of its student newspaper.

In today’s multi-media world, there is a need to be everywhere and Rayner’s popular podcast series Out to Lunch is coming up in April with guests including comedians Dara O Briain and Jo Brand.

Now having written three very personal books based on food, the 53-year-old award-winning writer is feeling the need to go in another direction, perhaps back to fiction which has seen him write four fiction novels, most recently The Oyster House Siege which was published in 2007.

Thinking of previous skilled broadcasters and wordsmiths such as David Frost and Clive James who were drawn to the light of showbiz, I ask him if he had, perhaps, been an actor when younger.

Jay said: “No, I’ve never been an actor but, until I was 14 or 15, that’s what I wanted to be.

“My late factor was an actor of stage and films.

“Personally, I think just learning your lines and been able to say them isn’t acting.

“But I have become more and more a performer as I have gone on.”

Jay Rayner - My Last Supper: One Meal A Lifetime In The Making is at Harrogate Theatre on Thursday, April 23.