Pink Rice and Table of Delights, 5 o’Clock Apron -Claire Thomson, Bristol

Claire2
Chef, co-owner of Flinty Red and mother of three; Claire Thomson is the epitome of multitasking. Amongst the hubbub of family life and running a restaurant, she feeds her young family exciting meals and also manages to write about it. I always look forward to her five o’clock tweets, fascinated to find out what is going on the table for dinner. Coupled with pictures of tiny hands kneading dough; rolling pastry and scattering seeds and herbs, her timeline is a beacon showing that dinnertime doesn’t have to be a battleground or beans and chips.
Photograph by www.mikelusmore.com courtesy of Ebury Press

Claire kindly took some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions.
Photograph by www.mikelusmore.com courtesy of Ebury Press

WM: What are your memories of cooking and eating as a child?
CT: I grew up in Africa, London and Shropshire, so very mixed memories; great barbecues under the stars, to London in the Eighties and Shropshire in the Nineties where my mum lives now.
WM: Does it still influence the way you cook and eat now?
CT: Absolutely! I travelled extensively as a child and as a grown up and think that travel is one of the very best influences you can have as a cook. That, and reading great food writers.
WM: What made you decide to become a chef?
CT: I studied journalism at Cardiff University and took a gap year after my degree, ending up in Sydney with my best friend (now also a chef). We cooked in a tiny cafe together and gained great experience and money to continue our trip home wards.
Photograph by www.mikelusmore.com courtesy of Ebury Press

WM: Why did you start 5 o’Clock Apron?
CT: I started 5 o’Clock Apron because I had an inkling that on becoming a mother, I would be spending quite a lot of time at home. I am a chef, but always wanted to loop back into my degree somehow; coupled with the fact that many parents were really interested in what I cooked for Grace and Ivy (Dot since). I wanted a way to document what I was feeding the kids and for any parents or whoever, to be able to see what I was up to. Twitter was how it started and from that, a Guardian column and book deal with Ebury Press. I am now writing my second.
WM: The Tweets turned into a column and now a book, how did you find that experience?
CT: I did a daily Tweet at 5pm or there abouts; from there, Mark Taylor asked me to write for Crumbs Magazine and I am hugely grateful to him for setting me off on the right track. The book, I wrote on maternity leave with Dorothy. In fact, I sent the proposal in on the eve of going to have Dot in hospital. It is an amazing thing to feel the power and creativity being head first in motherhood. Overwhelming and tiring it may be, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the mayhem. I like too that I have to feed my children day in, day out, and the book and the tea-time prompt is testament to the fact that we truly eat the book -as it were. Authenticity is crucial and I like that my Twitter and Instagram feed are very real, with food landing on the table exactly as it looks. I am proud of the headway I have made as a food writer in little over three years.
Photograph by www.mikelusmore.com courtesy of Ebury Press

WM: Is there a particular recipe in the book that you and your family love the most?
CT: Both chefs, our kids eat well. I think, if pressed, Ivy (5 years) would say pink rice (beetroot pilaf) as she likes yoghurt, seeds, lemon to squish and herbs to strew; that and the rice is very, very, pink. Grace is incredible (8 years), she has really turned into a great eater. She is excited by food and loves helping me in the kitchen. Dot (2 years) is head over heels for eggs; I often make frittatas, omelettes or some such for her lunchtimes and she is pretty good at trying new things. As for eating together, I cook a lot of vegetables and only eat meat once or twice a week; so Sunday lunch is a bit of an event.
WM: In your experience, what is the best way of getting children interested in eating healthy food?
CT: Cooking together is crucial; I also think that making your kitchen the hub of the house is a good idea. That way food gets cooked, eaten, washed and replenished; there is no mystery to how food arrives on the plate and makes the whole experience a very normal and day to day affair. I have a rule that something has to be tried before anyone can say they don’t like it. Taste buds grow up just like children, so one year they may hate courgettes and the next they might have changed their minds.
Photograph by www.mikelusmore.com courtesy of Ebury Press
WM: Any advice on how to tackle children who are fussy eaters?
CT: I’m lucky as a chef who can cook widely; my kids know I’m a good cook, but that said they are not saints and I am no dragon. There are some days noses twitch, and ‘I don’t like it’ is muttered; but food is food -we eat to live and we should be so lucky to have access to the food we have. I think the key is just carry on cooking as widely and as varied as possible.
WM: Your latest project is a collaboration with Theatre Damfino -how did that come about? 
CT: Katy and Tristan are friends of ours and our children go to school together; so it was about three years ago, sitting in the park after the school pick up, we four got talking about how similar food and theatre are as disciplines. First nights in the theatre and restaurants are similarly charged; we both wanted to find a common ground and bring the two together in an entertaining and imaginative way. We wanted our kids to watch, eat and be entertained by the world of food.
WM: What can we expect from Table of Delights?
CT: Expect crazy food mayhem. Flying eggs, love torn beets and a beautiful songstress cow by the name of Barbara. What we didn’t want was some earnest food education show, we all wanted a show that would wow kids and adults, a little bit anarchic and a lot of fun. First up we are in Bath at the Egg Theatre from 29th-31st October and then on to The Print Room in Notting Hill from 23rd November to the 13th December
Photograph by www.mikelusmore.com courtesy of Ebury Press
You can find a little taster of Table of Delights here and more about Claire and 5 o’Clock Apron here.
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