We spoke to award-winning Jay Rayner, restaurant critic for The Observer, feature writer and broadcaster about his upcoming book My Last Supper and how food and music are intertwined in his life. When not on TV, eating in restaurants or writing books, you can find Jay Rayner playing jazz piano with the Jay Rayner Quartet and gigging around the country. Having always struggled with the ultimate question “What would be your final meal be?” Jay decided to write My Last Supper to showcase his journey through life in food and music in pursuit of his final meal on earth. My Last Supper will be published this Thursday, September 5th, by Guardian Faber and accompanied by a live show which will tour the UK.
For the benefit of our readers could you briefly summarise what My Last Supper entails.
My Last Supper is an answer to the question I have been asked most regularly during my life which is “imagine you are on death row, what would your last meal be?” and I have always said “I would have lost my appetite”. So, in My Last Supper I go out in search of those ingredients and dishes and I tell the story from my own life behind them and threaded through the book is a playlist of the music that would go with it.
In My Last Supper you discuss all your favourite food elements you would serve. If you were forced to choose what would be your cuisine of choice?
One country? Well if I was to be clever I would say Japan but only because it is so much broader than people think. The old line “it’s so much more than sushi” is now a cliché, but having explored Japanese food I realised there are an awful lot of places to go and therefore wouldn’t get bored with Japanese, whereas I think experiences on two week holidays in the Dordogne have taught me I’d get bored of French classic food VERY quickly.
The old thing the British Middle Classes like to go on about is the depth of the French food culture, which to a certain extent it does, but it also has far less breadth. So you know you could go to the Dordogne or the Lot for two weeks and on day one it is confit de canard and lemon tart and day two it’s steak-frites and lemon tart and by day five you are gagging for a Thai green curry.
You are well known for your love of eating interesting animal parts. Is there anything you won’t eat?
The only thing I have come across that I hope to never come across again is salt fermented sea cucumber which I ate in a Japanese restaurant in Tokyo. Salt fermented sea cucumber is a little bit like taking a fresh trout and putting it on the parcel shelf of your car on a warm day and leaving it there for a few hours until it’s built up a really thick layer of slime and then licking the fishy slime.