Win a signed copy of Simon Bonwick's 'Cooking in Pubs'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

When Simon Bonwick, former chef patron of The Crown at Burchetts Green, A Michelin-starred pub in Maidenhead, met publisher and founder of A Way With Media Andrew Richardson, he knew he had made a special encounter.

"I find him very unusual - he's a proper wizard, working away, doing what he does. He's become my hero, my new esoteric friend," Simon said in an interview with The Staff Canteen.

"He saw that I was very indie: Oasis, Jesus and Mary Chain, The Smiths. Not very commercial," so gleaned from this that the book had to reflect Simon's eccentricities.

Nine great years

"Our time at The Crown - nine great years - it was a story that needed to be told," he explained, and what better way than to tell it through his eyes.

"From my view, people found it very funny, very emotional."

Working in pubs, he said, "it tears the facets of emotional intelligence: all of them are tapped into when you work and grow in pubs, especially after serious restaurants in hotels." 

While the decision to move from fine-dining restaurants in hotels - like The Connaught, where Simon started off -  into pubs - such as The Black Boys Inn and The Three Tunns, where he worked before taking on The Crown - wasn't completely unheard of, "it was unusual for a chef from a serious background to go and work in pubs in '99."

"I found myself there, having a rest. But it was far from a bloody rest. I found people sitting in their car eating off their laps in the car park in the first pub I ended up cooking in," he chuckled.

"It was like, really funny and exciting rather than serious," he said, "but in every pub it always becomes serious. The animal always refines itself and struts its chest out."

The book, and the next one

After nine years of one unlikely story after another, he said, "That story has sold out. People love the book. There are hardly any copies left.

And indeed, out of 1100 copies to be printed, 800 went through as pre-orders, which took Simon by surprise, as he had no idea the book would be in such high demand.

Now, he would like to see it become a cult book, and is adamant that once it is sold out, there will be no reprint.

"No. It's a one-off, so keep it dusted in a nice place, safe from all the evils of the world."

"I don't want to see it on Amazon for a fiver, I don't want to see it on eBay for £2.50. It's one of those books, I'm not going to reprint. No way." 

What makes the book so special to him, and to othe people who have read it and fed back to him so far, he said, is that "it's not Identikit. It's unlike any other chef book and it resonates with other chefs. Their hopes and dreams, and people who've already done all of that and have their own conclusions and connect with it." 

The chef is in the throws of writing a second book,  however, which he said "is going to be extremely funny." 

"It's a book about the early years, and some serious restaurants, with me being very un-serious, with the perils, the pitfalls and the brutal arduous grind that all took." 

Studio 369, and the future

Whilst when they announced The Crown's imminent closure last year, the Bonwicks had plans to reopen something in early 2022, this has now been pushed back to the summer.

In the meanwhile, Simon has been cooking for private guests at home, or exercising his creativity through painting at 'Studio 369,' titled as such by the chef "because that's the secret language of the universe," he laughed. "The frequency I roll to each morning when I get out of bed." 

When the proposition that he has temporarily adopted a change of pace was posited, Simon shook his head. "No, never. There's only one frequency."

"It's very exciting, alert, enthusiastic times. Alert, alive and enthusiastic, off everyone else's frequency, on my own."

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 21st January 2022

Win a signed copy of Simon Bonwick's 'Cooking in Pubs'