A Mouthful from Sunday Brunch's Simon Rimmer
March saw beer fanatics and novices alike descend on Ponds Forge in their thousands for the BeerX Festival of Beer, hosted by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA)…
Wowing delegates with his amazing veggie skills was Sunday Brunch TV chef Simon Rimmer. Adelle Draper caught up with him for a chinwag about his new concept beers, veggie cooking and, er, having a degree in fashion…
Exposed: Welcome to Sheffield, Simon! We hear you’re here attending the BeerX Festival of Beer?
Simon: Hello! Yes it’s great to be here in Sheffield – I’ve come from home in Manchester so it’s only a quick train journey. I’m speaking to delegates attending the trade side of BeerX about beer and food pairing, as well as introducing my new range of beers.
Sounds exciting! How did you wind up getting involved?
SIBA approached me to speak at BeerX and I jumped at the chance! I’ve always been a huge beer fan and I’m keen to raise awareness about the fantastic combinations people can achieve when matching beer with food.
It ties in with the launch of my new range of beers, which I’ve created with one of my local breweries, Robinson’s (who had great success with the beer they brewed for Manc indie rockers Elbow). I wanted to work on a concept with them for a while and we’ve finally got it off the ground.
Can you tell us more about the beers?
There are three in the range and we’ve designed them around the idea of making it simpler for people to know how to choose a beer to go with their meal. I gave Robinson’s some tasting notes about what I was after for steak, chicken and curry dishes and they got to work.
Sounds innovative! What can we expect?
For the steak I wanted a ruby red ale that was robust with a soft finish and a hint of smokiness, without it being a smoked beer. For the chicken I wanted citrus overtones, which complement white meat and fish too, and for the curry I wanted a fresh taste with a lime tang at the end to bring curry to life – a British made, British brewed beer to get in the face of the ‘regular’ beers people go for with a curry.
The other fantastic thing about the bottle is the rear labels peel open to reveal a recipe and some top tips from me.
Wow! When can we get our hands on them?
They launch in May and will be available in most supermarkets and some pubs too. I’m hoping the clear labelling will provide an easy choice and help people get into beer – some supermarkets stock up to 280 craft beers, so it’s hard to know where to start if you’re not an expert.
Is the beer industry something you want to do more with in the future?
It would be great to expand the range but we’ll see how it goes!
Have you always been into beer and food?
Funnily enough no! I grew up wanting to be a footballer, but instead went on to do a fashion, textile and design degree! I designed for five years and even had products in big department stores like Liberty’s in London – but I got bored.
I jacked it all in 23 years ago, bought a restaurant (Greens in Didsbury, Manchester) and started cooking vegetarian food.
Are you a veggie then?
No, I’m actually a devout carnivore! But I wanted to challenge myself to come up with vegetarian food I actually wanted to eat – it’s influenced the way I cook full stop and I like to use ingredients that complement and balance. Greens started off as a 28-cover restaurant with a ‘bring your own’ policy and then a comment in The Guardian calling it ‘one of the most exciting restaurants in the UK’ blew my world apart.
It sounds stupid but the industry was easier then and the idea was to buy it, run it for a couple of years and sell it on. Then I realised I loved cooking. I think my tombstone will simply read, “He got away with it.”!
We hear you have a new book coming out soon too. Can you tell us about it?
It’s my fourth book and the nicest I’ve written. It’s called Men Love Pie, Girls Love Hummus – so-called after some of the daft stuff I’ve heard people say over the years. The former came from two old ladies on a bus talking about needing to get their husbands to eat more vegetables, when one turned to the other and said, “Yes, but men like pie.” It tickles me to this day.
The latter came from a mate who was planning to cook to impress a girl. He rang me up for help and came round to go through a load of recipes. He must’ve felt overwhelmed because in the end he concluded, “Girls love hummus… I might just go to Tesco and get that.”
Anything else exciting in the pipeline?
I’ve got lots on with the beers and the book, but one future aspiration is to go into having my own pubs. Food and pubs is important – beer has always been the poor relation of food and drink and a pint with a meal was seen as uncouth until recently. However, there’s been a huge growth in women drinking beer and matching it with food – we’re now starting to treat beer with the same reverence as wine.
Food-based pubs are doing a great job with beer but we have to think about where the next generation is coming from. Local beer has become as important as local food – more pubs are serving beers brewed on their doorsteps. It’s definitely something I want to look into.
So the future’s bright for beer?
I think it’s going in the right direction. We’re spoiled for choice now with better beers around and I’ve found Channel 4 has been really supportive with us featuring beers on Sunday Brunch – more so than any other programme I’ve worked on. The next stage is to encourage more beer and food matching in pubs, which is no mean feat as they all have different requirements – an upmarket ‘gastro pub’ is totally different to a boozer in Stockport. Either way, people need to aim at a younger audience – that’s the way forward.
Find out more about BeerX Sheffield at the official website.
Interview by Adelle Draper.