The Gannet Q&A

Simran Sethi

1st September 2016

Photograph: Cem Ersavci

Born in Germany and raised in North Carolina, Simran Sethi is a journalist and educator who focuses on food, sustainability and social change. She is the author of the award-winning book Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love, which explores changes in food and agriculture through bread, wine, chocolate, coffee and beer. She still lives in the US but, she says, “I have kind of been a nomad since selling my house and leaving my job back in 2012. I am still deciding where to land.”

1. If you could revisit one meal in your life, which would it be?

One of the last meals I had with my father at a Thai restaurant owned by his neighbour. My dad was a creature of habit and always ordered the same thing. I wish I had held his hand for longer; I wish I had not complained about the redundant pad Thai; and I wish I had said “yes” when he asked if I wanted another glass of wine.

2. What was your favourite food when you were 10?

That was a long time ago, but I remember how much I loved the Cadbury Fruit & Nut chocolate bars that my mother would try to hide from my sister and me. I’d always manage to find them.

3. What’s your greatest talent in the kitchen?

I assemble. Pasta and greens, bread and cheese, eggs on anything.

A photo posted by Simran Sethi (@simransethi) on

4. What’s the best thing you cooked at home in the last few months?

My favourite foods are the ones cooked for me, such as the incredible pie made by my baker friend John [Hinman, of Hinman’s Bakery in Denver] and the roasted eggplant made by my mom.

5. What do you listen to when you’re cooking?

I have a voracious appetite for news. My soundtrack in recent weeks has been the U.S. political broadcasts streamed on NPR.

6. What ingredient are you currently obsessed with?

In summer, it’s so easy to let the inherent tastes of fresh fruits and veggies shine. All it takes is salt, pepper and oil to turn produce into a meal. I’m exploring different finishing salts – by companies such as Wood + Salt and Jacobsen Salt Coand seeing what kinds of flavours can be enhanced through their application.

7. Describe a kitchen object you can’t live without.

The gigantic Bialetti pan I received on The Martha Stewart Show is my go-to item. It was the audience gift, but I begged.

8. What’s your most food-splattered cookbook?

Zora O’Neill and Tamara Reynolds wrote a cookbook that played off their Queens, NY, supper club called Forking Fantastic!: Put the Party Back in Dinner Party. I have never wanted to cook as much as when I am reading (and re-reading) that book.

9. Share a useful cooking tip.

Be charming, offer to clean up after, and get someone else to cook for you.

10. If you had to limit yourself to the cuisine of just one country, which would it be and why?

India, because it’s the taste of my ancestral home and a very important part of who I am.

11. What food do you most dislike?

Anything that’s fast and highly processed.

12. What’s your favourite food scene in the movies?

I love the cooking scenes in Like Water for Chocolate.

13. Name a favourite restaurant in your neighbourhood.

I don’t have a fixed neighbourhood at the moment, but the 1900 Barker bakery in Lawrence, Kansas, makes these incredible chilled coffee drinks that I am quite obsessed with. I am typically a purist (espresso plus a dash of milk and sugar) but this drink is the taste of summer. Opal basil, muddled blackberries, juniper lime bitters, tonic and espresso. It brings out the more savoury flavours in the coffee and is just spectacular.

14. What most annoys you as a customer in a restaurant?

I think parents have a much higher threshold for loud children than I do. I prefer quiet dining experiences sans loud kids.

15. What’s your biggest food extravagance?

I’m a big believer in paying for good food and the hard work that goes into it. For some, many of my meals would be considered extravagant but I believe in this. No cheap chocolate or bargain coffee for me.

16. Describe your average breakfast.

Coffee with milk. And then an early lunch.

A photo posted by Simran Sethi (@simransethi) on

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Posted 1st September 2016

In The Gannet Q&A


Photograph: Cem Ersavci

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