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14 Jun 2019

Theo Michaels on his top tips for the perfect barbecue this Father’s Day

Theo Michaels on his top tips for the perfect barbecue this Father’s Day

To tickle your taste buds ahead of the very first National Geographic Traveller Food Festival (20-21 July, Business Design Centre, London), we chat to the chef and author Theo Michaels about what makes a summer barbecue extra special, and all things food and travel.

The former MasterChef finalist will be appearing at the festival on Saturday 20 July, talking about his new cookbook, Orexi!. He’ll be joined in the Speakers’ Corner by chefs and authors including Ben Tish, Asma Khan, Kay Plunkett-Hogge and John Gregory-Smith.

Tickets: £22, available at foodfestival.natgeotraveller.co.uk 

THEO’S TOP FIVE BBQ TIPS

  1. Go big
    Cook large cuts of meat or whole fish; they’ll stay tender, taste better, look great and are perfect for sharing. 
  2. Learn to use indirect heat
    It’ll stop you burning everything. 
  3. Use the best charcoal you can get
    Ideally use lumpwood — not all charcoal is created equal.
  4. Let your food rest 
    For 15-20 minutes once you’ve cooked it. It’ll make all the difference.
  5. Don’t forget the salads and sides
    They’re the difference between a bunch of meat on a plate and a proper meal.

5 MINUTES WITH THEO 

What or who has been the greatest influence on your cooking?
My mum, my yiayia [grandmother] and dad — they’re all fabulous cooks and totally instinctive. From a very early age, they set the tone — large family meals, eating together, using humble ingredients prepared with restraint, respect and love to create delicious meals. I think that’s where my philosophy of creating elegant village food stems from. 
 
Other than your native Greek Cypriot cuisine, which other cuisines do you love to cook?
I was blown away by the food in Vietnam and most of Southeast Asia — especially the street food. The cuisine has an incredible balance of flavours and many that are unique to Vietnam and the surrounding countries. I’m always in awe when I see the alchemy of simple ingredients transformed into incredible food, especially those that are fresh and vibrant.   
 
Sweet or savoury? 
Savoury. No question.
 
What are your earliest memories of food? 
Sitting at the kitchen table at my yiayia’s [grandmother’s], gouging out handfuls of fresh bread from the inside of a loaf and eating them, until the entire thing was just a hollow shell. I remember her picking up the loaf, looking inside, then chasing me out of the kitchen with a torrent of Greek words that would make a sailor blush. That and my mum’s chocolate mousse — it’s the best in the world. 
 
Is there anywhere on your travel hitlist at the moment? 
Africa. My wife and I have been lucky enough to travel a lot of the globe (USA, South America, China, Japan, most of Southeast Asia, India, Europe and a few other spots along the way) but we never got around to making it to Africa, and I’ve been hankering for a trip over there. That and Ibiza, everyone tells me I’d love it! Borneo and Mexico too. 
 

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