Graham Garrett Talks Sex & Drugs & Sausage Rolls
When Graham Garrett decided to write a book, no-one was more surprised than him.
“I spent the last God knows how many years with people asking me to do a book, but I always said ‘never’,” explained the rock star turned Michelin-starred chef.
But on October 16, his book Sex & Drugs & Sausage Rolls, will hit the shelves.
The book tells the extraordinary story of Graham’s journey from an East End childhood to 80s rock star to acclaimed chef, and includes more than 50 recipes behind some of his favourite dishes, many of them inspired by his childhood and turbulent youth – including the eponymous sausage roll.
But it’s far from the run-of-the-mill cook book.
“If I had just done a recipe book, it would be just another cook book which is not what I wanted to do,” said Graham.
“I buy so many cook books and there’s certain types that I really like, but there’s also a type that most of the publishers do – they usually accompany a TV series and then are in WH Smith for £9.99.
“They’re alright, but they all look the same and it starts to get really boring.”
But eventually Graham was convinced that he could create something a bit different.
“I was making my feelings about recipe books known one day and a photographer I was working with said that I should do a book and I could do it differently,” he said. “So I started talking to some people about it. Cat Black, who wrote the book with me, lives fairly close and is an artist and I was talking to her about it and then she put me in touch with some people, and then they started talking about all the different ways we could do it.
“By this point I was semi interested, but I still wasn’t sure.
“I’ve always liked the Face Publishing books – the Sat Bains book they published is a work of art – and I spoke to Anthony Hodgson and he was a really nice guy.
“We had a massive conversation about what I don’t like about cook books and he said he would be really interested in doing something with me.
“I just thought that if someone like that was wanting to do something with me then it would be rude not to!”
So work began on creating Sex & Drug & Sausage Rolls.
“I knew I didn’t want to make it a very cheffy book,” said Graham. “And for it to have some kind of commercial appeal I knew that there had to be recipes that people at home could look at and think ‘I can make that.’ I was adamant that I wanted to make it useable.
“But then customers started requesting other recipes so I thought I’d better try to include some of them too, and they are more advanced, so there’s quite a cross-section in there.
“One of the great things about choosing the recipes was that I started to realise where a lot of my influences had come from.
“Your past and your experiences and your memories really shape what you like to eat.
“You don’t realise it at the time but you pick up flavours and little things stick with you, and stick in your brain and influence you later on.”
And, of course, Graham’s colourful life led him to many diverse and unusual situations, from the glamour of recording in the States, hearing thousands of fans sing ‘happy birthday’ to him in a stadium in Moscow and the misery of being trapped in an airport for days on end, to working with stellar culinary names such as Richard Corrigan and Gordon Ramsay, cooking privately for the Queen and even causing leading restaurant critic AA Gill to spend a night on the couch!
“I’ve been told that some of the stories are amazing,” said Graham. “But I had a bit of a mental break down half way through writing it all, wondering if it anyone else would actually care and if it was all really boring. But everyone told me that they were good stories and I should carry on.
“And although everything in the book is true, I was also very aware of the fact that I had to protect the innocent, and also I didn’t want to put people off coming to the restaurant!
“I have bared my soul though, and it’s a bit scary wondering how people will react, but so far the reactions have all been great.
“And the positive side is that at least now everything is out there.
“It used to be that every time I did something on TV someone would dig out a story or photograph from the past, but now I’ve put all the embarrassing stuff out there myself.”
While writing a book is a very new experience for Graham, it was a process he embraced.
“It was a massive learning curve,” he said. “I didn’t really realise what was involved until I started.
“It took about a year in all, which is the norm I think. But actually you don’t really have a year at all. You set a release date which is then almost set in stone, then you find out they need the finished copy three months before the release date, so then you only have nine months. But then you realise you need a couple of months for recipe testing and proof reading and suddenly you only have three or four months to get it all done.
“There were stressful parts, but overall the process was enjoyable.
“Strangely though, the bit I enjoyed least was actually writing the recipes.
“All my recipes are just on scraps of paper and they don’t have much detail or any method or anything because I just know what to do.
“And you have to scale everything down, but recipes aren’t a simple maths thing so you have to change things and it becomes quite labour intensive.
“But the making of the dishes and the creative side was all fun.”
So would he do it again?
“I just don’t know that I have anything else to say!” said Graham. “It would have to be a specific thing for a very specific reason. It’d like that difficult second album situation. If you have an idea and you put it all into the first thing, then the next one is either all the stuff that didn’t make the first one, or a rehash, and it’s just not that great.”
Graham Garrett and his partner Jackie bought The West House in Biddenden, Kent in 2002, to create their own dining room, and allow Graham to pursue his own vision. His food has gained the restaurant multiple awards: it has held a Michelin star since 2004, featured in Harden’s top restaurants list in the UK, and holds three AA Rosettes.
Sex & Drugs & Sausage Rolls is published by Face Publications in a strictly limited edition of just 5,000 copies, each copy numbered by hand. All copies ordered from the Face website will be signed by Graham: www.facepublications.com/shop/sex-drugs-sausage-rolls-graham-garrett
One copy ordered from the Face website will contain an exclusive ‘backstage pass’, entitling the holder and a guest to spend a morning in the kitchen at The West House with Graham, followed by lunch at the restaurant.