Five minutes with Sally Abé

Sally Abé blew judges away on Great British Menu, where she represented the Central England region and her inventive dishes won her a place in the final. From a tempered chocolate time capsule to a pork dish inspired by the 1969 Moon landing, Sally’s cooking was innovative and clever.

Sally started her cheffing career at The Ledbury and Phil Howard’s Elystan Street, then found success at The Harwood Arms, London’s only Michelin starred gastro pub. She’s now heading up The Pem, inside the Conrad London St James hotel. Sally is a long-time advocate and voice for women in hospitality, and is hosting an a panel and lunch event celebrating International Women’s Day, on Tuesday 8th March, for which a number of tickets were given away to hospitality and catering students at local Westminster Kingsway College.

Five minutes with Sally Abé

What’s your very first memory of food?

Making croissants with my mum when I was 5 or 6. It took a lot longer than we thought it would, and I remember feeling very grown up as I was allowed to stay up until 9pm at night!

What’s the first recipe you properly learned to make?

Delia Smith’s courgette, feta and mint fritters, I must have been about 18 at the time.

Did you have school dinners or packed lunches growing up? Any fond memories?

I have fond memories of those little packets of Sun-Maid raisins which were in our packed lunches.

What’s the one recipe you can’t live without?

Singapore noodles, from scratch.

What’s the one ingredient that you’d take to a desert island with you?

Sriracha because it makes pretty much everything taste better.

What’s the meal you’d miss the most whilst there?

Mashed potatoes.

You can have a one-off dinner party on your island… who would you invite?

Rebel Wilson, Emily Wilding Davison (my restaurant The Pem is named after this leading suffragette), Sylvia Plath, Emma Watson and Idris Elba.

Ainsley
Sally’s dessert at the Pem. Credit Food Story Media Ltd.

 

What’s your all-time favourite cookbook?

Margaret Costa’s Four Seasons Cookery Book – it was originally published in 1970 and has really stood the test of time.

How were your plans affected by Covid-19?

We had to close the restaurant throughout the lockdown and I spent a lot of time cooking for the homeless at Refettorio Felix.

Which meal did you cook the most during the various lockdowns?

There were two chefs at home during the lockdowns, and we had a cooking rota – we pretty much ate something different every day.

And what did you binge watch on TV?

Sex Education.

What’s been the best meal you’ve had in a restaurant recently?

Curried goat, black sesame cod, celeriac with watermelon seed sauce at the modern West African Chishuru restaurant in Brixton Village, London.

How was your experience on Great British Menu? What was it like cooking for the judges?

It was nerve-racking, but exciting at the same time. It was a fantastic opportunity to show the food I’m really passionate about. My favourite dish to cook was my main course, ‘One Small Step For Man’ – the black and white dish inspired by the BBC broadcast of the moon landing on July 20th, 1969, and one of the Apollo astronauts’ meals when on board the Lunar Module. It included a pork chop, and pork gel with scalloped potato served in a can, turnip and celeriac purée made to look like a boot print, black pudding, pork crackling served in a vac pac bag, and pork gravy.

BBC
Sally’s ‘One Small Step For Man’ dish. Credit: BBC.

What are your culinary ambitions for the year ahead?

To have a full restaurant at The Pem, at the Conrad London St James in Westminster and – very importantly – happy customers!

To book a table at The Pem, click here.

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