A tomato tart can be as temperamental as any supermodel – luckily this one was in a good mood. I’m going through the cover shots with olive’s creative director, Liz Galbraith. We recently added smaller inset shots to show the variety of content in olive: recipes, restaurants and travel – but the main image still has to be mouthwatering.
And this baby is.
A quick lunch with Henrietta Green, a great champion of British food, who tells me about a new restaurant she is involved in at Borough Market. It’s amazing how many new places open in London alone – I’m at launches two or three times a week and, occasionally, two in one night. No complaints – it’s a sociable industry and people who work in food and travel are damn good fun. Tonight I leave the office after 8pm, my food editor and chief sub still toiling at their desks. We’re a small team and I’m currently in the process of recruiting four members of staff, so long hours are just part of the job.
Arrive at The Cipriani to dine with Joan Collins. OK, not really – I’m meeting friends in the pub, but I’m celebrating the news that La Collins has just happily agreed to be interviewed for our Food Stars feature. So far we’ve attracted Stephen Fry, Anthony Bourdain and now Joanie – just the kind of opinionated food lovers who would make great dinner party guests.
Discuss Gordon Ramsay’s forthcoming features with his agent. We don’t feature cheesy celebrity chefs, only real heavyweights, such as Ramsay – there’s no arguing with three Michelin stars.
We’re also known for featuring upandcoming chefs such as Ben O’Donaghue, The Atlantic Bar’s whizz kid, and Bill Granger, the Sydney chef whose relaxed recipes are the epitome of cool. This balance is important – mixing established names with the food world’s new talent is unique to olive.
Food editor Lulu Grimes wants to talk Indian. Each month we feature recipes from a new restaurant and this month it is Sir Michael Caine’s upmarket ruby house, Deya. We adapt the recipes they’ve given us to make them achievable at home. olive is the magazine for the ‘white plate generation’, young professionals who eat out frequently and like cooking hassle-free food that looks impressive.
It is 5.20am: in a cab on the way to Gatwick regretting my decision to do a two-day press trip to Bordeaux for a feature in our expanded travel section.
Still regretting it at 8am – BA’s coffee is revolting. But at lunchtime I’m eating oysters overlooking a beach in the Bassin d’Arcachon. This is a food lover’s paradise and dead right for our readers. Over the next two days I sample foie gras in Sauternes, visit vineyards and chateaux in St Emilion, discover that the traditional aperitif here is called Lillet (erm, nice) and watch the veggie journo I’m travelling with faint with hunger. In this part of the world, it’s goose fat with everything.
Back in the office, the e-mails have stacked up. I love olive readers.
Since the launch in November last year, I’ve received hundreds of messages every week that praise us for producing a magazine that’s relevant to their lifestyle, detail their favourite foods and recipes (there’s a lot of chorizo and truffle oil mentioned), recommend their favourite restaurants – and whinge about their bad experiences.
Interview a candidate for the features editor job. I’m looking for someone who understands our upbeat, slightly irreverent tone and doesn’t want to make the features over-earnest.
I’d much rather read about a brilliant chippy in Yorkshire than how many enumbers are in convenience foods.
olive focuses on the sociability of food and even the food provenance features are written with a sense of humour.
olive: catering for lifestyle tastes
The team meets to plan the Christmas issue. It’s the most important time of the year for food magazines and we debate whether to do Christmas in a traditional way or to give it a more alternative angle, what we think the other magazines in the market will be doing and how we can ensure that olive is the most inspiring, useful and original Christmas package.
2pm: Paddington, to catch a train to Wales for a readers’ dinner. Every month we visit a restaurant featured in olive’s top 100 restaurant guide and invite readers to join us. It’s great to get their feedback and vital to keep in touch with what’s happening outside London.
There are about 30 of us at The Pear Tree and the chef/patron is cooking the whole lot on his tod. If he’s stressed, he isn’t showing it, and looks ice cool when I pop into the kitchen to ask him to come and meet the readers.
The conversation is all about the best farmers’ markets, restaurants and delis in the area. People who are into food are always happy to show off what their region has to offer. They drink lots, too.
Get back and head off to a shoot – chef Marcus Wareing (of Petrus, The Savoy and Banquette fame) is doing a weekend food story for us – it’s always fascinating to see what chefs cook at home. Shepherd’s pie, in this case.
Head back to the office to tackle a mountain of proofs… but not before lunch.