A fond farewell to Surrey Life readers from celebrity chef Tony Tobin

In his final column, celeb Tony Tobin reveals some of the high points – and the low points – of his last three years with Surrey Life magazine

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine October 2010

Photo: Andy Newbold


There comes a time in columnists’ lives when they have to say ‘farewell’ and, sob, this month that sad task falls to me. After nearly three years tapping out my thoughts, rants, ideas and anecdotes each month, I am now hanging up my keyboard to devote myself full-time to my chef-ly duties at the Dining Room in Reigate. It has been fun though…

Just as the end of many light-hearted films these days includes a montage of the bloopers during filming, it would be rude of me to sail off into the culinary sunset without sharing a few of the high – and the low – points of my column with you.

First, a trade secret. Please don’t tell Surrey Life I told you… this is strictly between you and me. Fact: I write these columns a little bit in advance. So, sometimes, things change in the interim. With me, it has often been weather predictions. Back in 2008, I penned a piece for July at the end of May confidently talking about the barbecues you would all be holding in the blazing summer. Do you see where I’m going? We didn’t get a summer in Surrey in 2008. I’d have been better off writing about edible brollies.

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Then there have been the photos. Sometimes, a photo of food has a particular moment and you have to capture THAT moment or you’re doomed. I remember my first and last flamb� dish for this column. The brandy was poured on, the brandy was lit, the photographer was ready and a supplier opened the door of the restaurant and appeared in the background carrying a few boxes of mushrooms. We considered Photoshopping him out but decided to retake it.

More brandy went on. I lit it. The photographer clicked… but did so a second after it had gone out. More brandy…After about five attempts, I was looking at a half-bottle of fine brandy and the soggiest, most alcoholic dish I’ve ever spent time in the company of.

Trade secrets Then there were the dishes that I had to prepare to a deadline and found that I was without a key ingredient. Ethical dilemma… change the recipe? Cook it without that ingredient and hope it doesn’t show? Or, my personal favourite, use a food-double. This is a bit like a body double in blockbuster movies. Or perhaps not. Anyway, I trust none of you noticed when a few egg yolks stood in for custard!

Overall, I have simply loved writing about food. Cookbooks are a massive market in Britain today. Food is the centre of our social lives and our family lives. As I have said once before, the table not the TV is the place to keep a family together. So I would urge each last one of you to take your food seriously. Food doesn’t have to be serious – it can be fun, fulfilling, creative, challenging and downright difficult to control when you have a tough recipe – but take it seriously.

The Tobin rule is this – buy fresh food and cook it yourself. I’ve said it many times over the last three years and there’s nothing more important I can impart. Cooking will remove your day-to-day stresses and fresh food will build you a healthy mind and body. Forget diet supplements – just avoid ready-meals and get your diet right. Healthy does not equal boring. If you rely on a surfeit of sugar, salt and fat to make your food taste nice, you haven’t listened to a word I’ve said.

Thankfully, I know from your letters that most of you have. I thank you for it, I wish you every success in your cooking and entertaining, and I hope to have a chance for an occasional slot when a great new recipe comes my way.

I leave you, finally, with perhaps my favourite recipe of all. A Sunday roast with all the trimmings. It doesn’t get better than that! Enjoy it and take care.


Tony Tobin is head chef at The Dining Room in Reigate (01737 226650). Get in touch with your own recipe ideas by sending an e-mail to editor@surreylife.co.uk  or commenting below.

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