We caught up with food columnist and television presenter Gizzi Erskine when she was in Dublin last month to judge the World Class Irish Bartender of the Year 2015 at No. 10 Ormond Quay in Dublin’s city centre, of which Cork native Anna Walsh from Dublin bar MVP, and the only female competitor, was crowned victorious.
Looks like the foodie future belongs to talented women, so who better to take advice from than one of the industry’s most glamorous food writers with a few books and tv shows under her very stylish belt. Full disclosure: she was one of the nicest interviewees we’ve ever met, her eyeliner was on point, and that beehive looks amazing in real life.
On her famous beehive (It takes five minutes, she insists)
“I get really frustrated if I have hair or make up booked in because I can do this in two seconds flat. I do it myself for all my shows and stuff like that. I’ve done it since I was 15. I’ve got it to a tee.”
On her style
“I’m hopeless at fashion, I just love music. This is why I look like this. So, I was into mental, got very into punk when I was 15, 16. Then got into a Psychobilly, which is a cross between punk and fifties rock and roll. That was very much what I was into in my twenties. The look now is a cross between punk and fifties, the sixties garage scene. I just think the beehive suits me the most, and I love sixties clothes.”
On her Irish ex-boyfriend
“I actually went out with a Dubliner, and was here quite a lot for four years. He was in a Pyschobilly band called The Klingonz – they were great, so we spent a lot of time here.”
On her next book, Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite: Food to nourish the body and feed the soul
“It’s my best book I’ve done so far. It’s a bit of an antithesis of health, really. We’re using healthy appetite as a way of saying two things, as a way of having a double entendre. I have a huge and healthy appetite. I can eat like a pig. I’m gutsy, I love my food. I get miserable if I don’t eat well. But I’m a girl and I want to feel good, and sometimes feeling good means being able to fit into a dress a size down, or whatever.”
On clean eating
“I feel like we’ve gone off on this weird tangent with healthy eating at the moment. Clean eating is gone berserk. There’s so much love taken out of how we eat. I miss recipes. Just having some avocado on some cauliflower rice and a drizzle of whatever – tahini – does not count as a dinner for me.”
On women’s relationship with food
“I feel as women people are looking onto your plate, more than they ever have done. And what is unhealthy about a good rib sticking stew made from great ingredients with heart? What is wrong with that?
“We should be eating more vegetables. I’ve been preaching that for years and years and years. We should be cutting back on carbohydrates and eating the right kind of carbs. To take carbohydrates out altogether and to criminalise wheat and dairy to everyone – all of this frustrates me. It’s not how we should eat. And half these people won’t touch milk, but they’ll be living off cheese.”
On elimination diets
“I just think we need to be remembering that moderation is the key. Unless you have a genuine allergy, not an intolerance, what is the problem? I’ve worked with coeliacs and people with Crohn’s disease, people who are really ill and some have and to have colostomy bags and inject steroids every day. That’s what a real wheat allergy looks like, do you know what I mean? I just get a bit frustrated with how the world is criminalising so many foods, when actually for most of us the worst is we get a bloated tummy.
On the Hemsley sisters
The one thing I’m totally behind those girls for the fact that they’ve really got people to start making healthy food. The whole food industry is up in arms about the bone broth thing, but I’m just hugely jealous that I didn’t think of rebranding stock.”
On her bohemian childhood
“My upbringing was great. My mum’s very freethinking and spiritual. She made me understand. She gave me the ability to think for myself and choose what I wanted to do and supported my choices.
“My upbringing probably pushed me. I never queried my ability to do anything. My friends who aren’t doing what they want to do always have this barrier in front of them, and I’ve never had that barrier. I’ve always been brought up to think I can achieve what I want. I think that is one of biggest keys to success, having that confidence. That’s something that’s kinda bred into you.”
On her career
“This has been an accident, a very happy accident but an accident all the same, where I’ve just been in a lot of right places at the right time.”
“With regards to getting into the food industry – train. Be good at what you’re doing. Know all the details, don’t try and take shortcuts. Research. It’s the same with any job. If you know your stuff, you’re going to be great. Be confident, have the bravado to push yourself. The key is having the skills, having the bravado and having self-confidence.”
On doing television
“I never would have chosen to do television… I still get nervous. It’s funny – I’m so multi-faceted in what I do. I’m primarily a food writer who has a business doing events and pop ups and street food events, then I have tv and books. It’s probably the thing I get least out of but I feel very lucky to be doing, It’s such a whirlwind headfuck… It’s the thing I’m least confident about.”
On her taxidermy collection
“I named one of my taxidermy pieces after Tim (her publicist). I like weird stuff. I love horror movies. I love books about things like Aleister Crowely and the illuminati and space. I just like strange things – taxidermy fits in there. I really want a pickled baby pig!”
On her column in the Sunday Times
“Mind blowing. I was probably one of the youngest columnists they ever had full stop – definitely youngest food columnist. Most food columns in the UK are based around seasonality and providence and things like that, my voice has always been about what’s current and trends. It was really cool they took a gamble on me. I’ve learnt so much working there. It’s hard. It’s very busy. I do everything myself, a lot of celebrity people in my industry have teams that work with them. I have my sidekick Sophia who does shopping and preps me and that’s pretty much as far as I go. Everything else is written by me, developed by me, cooked by me.”
On her favourite cocktail
“I’m pretty classic in my cocktail tastes. A gibson is probably my favourite. That’s like a dry martini with pickled onions instead. I like acidity, I like sour. I’m really quite boring!” (She totally isn’t)
On her next adventure
“I just did this great show on Korean food that comes out really soon. It’s really cool – it’s about Korean culture and food, it’s bloody great. Best experience I ever had. And that was great – just me being me. They followed me round – it wasn’t an observational documentary but it felt shot like that, so I didn’t have to present. I felt wicked.”