Keith Brymer Jones on scotch eggs, on-set snacks and cooking pizza in his kiln

The expert ceramic designer and judge on TV’s The Great Pottery Throw Down has created thousands of mugs and bowls in his long career – but what does he like to eat and drink from them? Keith Brymer Jones talks pizza-making in his Whitstable studio, salutes his mother’s high teas – and reveals the snacks he stashes in the green room…

Keith Brymer Jones on scotch eggs, on-set snacks and cooking pizza in his kiln
Portrait: Liz Seabrook

What food did you grow up eating?

My mother was an amazing cook. When we were growing up in the 1970s, she would do a nutritional food plan for the week. She was a domestic cookery teacher and was making spaghetti bolognese and lasagne before anyone else was. We weren’t allowed to leave anything on our plate: if we did, it would be there the next day and we’d have to eat it. But that’s made me now able to eat everything and anything.

She would do amazing high teas on a Saturday, all from scratch. Cream horns, a chocolate eclair mountain, sandwiches with the crusts cut off, layer cakes, chocolate gateaux. My father was a keen football player and played for the London Welsh team. He used to bring teammates back and they were always stunned by the spread.

What’s your go-to snack?

I do love a snack. Growing up, when I came home from school there would always be a piece of cake and a pint of milk. I haven’t really lost that sweet tooth mentality, but I’m more of a savoury guy now. My go-to snack is radishes, and cheese with biscuits or apple. My weakness? Scotch eggs and pork pies; I’m your typical bloke. There’s a motorway service station on the way up to Scotland called Tebay with a great farm shop, where I stock up on scotch eggs. They usually last me for the duration of our stay. Marj’s family are from the Isle of Bute and my sister lives in Oban.

Do you all eat together on The Great Pottery Throw Down? And do you get to request any specific provisions..?

Food is important on set – it’s a morale booster. It’s amazing how much conversation is taken up by what we had to eat that day. Rich the judge, presenter Siobhán and I have lunch in the green room together and talk about what’s been going on. Rich is a stickler for Skittles – he has loads of them. I have San Pellegrino in the fridge and bananas. And I love a Jammie Dodger.

A tray of homemade jammy dodgers
You might find a Jammie Dodger in the Throw Down green room


You’re known for your domestic ware designs – crockery for the home. Why does it appeal to you?

My background in production throwing – cups, saucers, plates – is partly something I fell into. But also it’s my way of communicating my passion practically, through domestic ware. My favourite form to make is a bowl – not because it’s one of the oldest forms known to humankind, but because it’s a sharing form. If we have people over, there’ll be a bowl of biscuits or olives on the table that we can all share from. I often give bowls to friends because I love the form and what it symbolises.

Can life as a potter be isolating?

I’m never more in my happy place than when I’m in the studio. I love my own company. There were days – years ago – where I wouldn’t talk to anyone all day. I had Radio 4 on and that did me fine, to the point where I imagine it’s a bit unhealthy – this hermit mentality. I often describe pottery as one of my greatest companions – apart from my partner Marj, obviously. I haven’t known my adult life without clay. It’s been an incredible solace and support to me.

Would you describe yourself a perfectionist?

I’m pretty harsh on myself. There’s always a certain percentage of me that’s slightly disappointed with myself, because I’m trying to attain perfection. A lot of chefs probably suffer from that as well. But a few years ago, I came to this sudden realisation that there’s no such thing as perfection. It’s quite subjective, especially in a creative field, and one should just enjoy the process rather than the end goal. Since I’ve had that revelation, I’ve enjoyed my work far more.

What do you find fascinating about pottery?

I was at an event at the British Museum once, and one of the head curators said to me, ‘Do you realise that there are only about five items in the world that someone from five or six thousand years ago would recognise, and one of them is a clay bowl?’ If you showed a caveman a modern bowl, he would know exactly what you would use that for, but he wouldn’t recognise what a knife was, or a fork – let alone the wheel. I find that fascinating.

Here’s another fact… Ceramic was the material that took humankind from being hunter-gatherers to domestic farmers. It was the fact that we could make clay pots to store seeds in that moved us forward to control the food we eat. Quite mind-blowing.

Are there any creative ambitions you’re yet to fulfil?

Of course – loads! On my gravestone it’ll say ‘Hang on a minute, I haven’t finished yet!’ I can’t express how excited I am about the new studio I’m building in Wales: we’ve bought a huge chapel – it’s 2,500 square feet. I hope to run apprenticeship schemes there and the bigger the kilns, the bigger the dreams I can achieve.

How would you spend a perfect Sunday?

I’d get up fairly early – I’ve always been an early riser – and go for a swim in the sea here in Whitstable. I’d have a light breakfast, then we’d enjoy a roast dinner – either chicken or roast beef (I love roast beef). And I’d have a whisky and ginger ale. I drink a lot of whisky – back in the day, probably too much! We’d go for a walk along the beach, then in the evening have some dates and cheese.

A joint of roast beef, carved into slices
Roast beef is Keith’s Sunday lunch of choice


We’ve heard a rumour that you make pizza in your kiln… Is it true?

Yes – Marj does brilliant pizzas in the kiln. We’ve even got one of those pizza shovel things. White pizza with cheese and potato is a classic of hers. I’ve got a projector and sometimes do screenings of Throw Down with the neighbours. We’ll cook pizzas and I bring them out while people are watching. Because the kiln gets so hot, there’s no bacteria in it at all – it’s incredibly clean and great for cooking pizza!

Quick-fire Q&A

Would you rather wash up or dry?
I’m chief washer upper and dryer upper – I do it all. Marj does the cooking, so I have to do the cleaning up. It’s only fair really, isn’t it?

What do you believe is the best sandwich filling?
This is pretty boring, but I would have cheese, ham and apple with a smattering of sweet chutney.

Do you bother about getting every last baked bean out of a tin?
What a question. Yes, I would literally get every bean out of the tin.

What Keith ate last week

The extraordinary
Royal Prawns – a dish from Indian restaurant Nomi in Pwllheli, North Wales, which we often visit. Nomi is probably the best Indian food we’ve ever had, which is quite incredible as Pwllheli is a very small place.

The mundane
A banana. But they’re healthy and great for energy levels!

The treat
Cheese – cheese and dates. And it’s weird: I haven’t got too much of a sweet tooth any more, but every now and again I get a crazy craving for chocolate, and it has to be decent chocolate. As I get older, with things like wine and chocolate, I can’t be doing with the cheap stuff. My palate has changed over the years, so I can’t drink Thunderbird wine anymore! I want to have the decent stuff – and really lovely chocolate.

Keith is taking his pottery wheel on tour this spring with his show Life, Clay and Everything, where he shares stories in conversation with his partner, actor and designer Marj Hogarth; buy tickets here. To shop for his ceramics, visit his website.

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