TWENTY QUESTIONS FOR SIMON MAJUMDAR
Where you’re from and current city of residence: My mom was British and my father is Indian. I’m originally from Winchester, England but was raised South Yorkshire. I lived in London for 25 years and I currently call Los Angeles home. I moved to the U.S. in 2010 to be with my fiancée, Sybil, who is now my wife. I’m now a U. S. citizen; that happened last year.
Where you’d love to live someday: My family has a holiday home in Southern Spain- outside Andalusia… I’d love to live there. Or perhaps Croatia… somewhere along the Istrian Coast for the quality of the food, the people, the great wine, and extraordinary scenery. The forests, in particular.
Your family includes: My wife Sybil. And my father and brother.
Why were you drawn to food? Food is a family obsession. My family always talked about food and discussed it. Even now, Jeremy, my brother and my Dad will send me photos of what they are eating. Jeremy and I ran one of the first food blogs in the U.K. We contributed to Chowhound, among others and were named to the Top 100 Food People in London list. At 43, I left my job and used my savings to tour the world, eating along the way. I got a quote for the book from Anthony Bourdain. Shortly after that, I got a call from Food Network to screen test but I never thought I was actually going to get it. So Sybil and I got married and two days into the honeymoon I got a call saying they wanted me as a judge on Iron Chef.
Do you have someone you consider a mentor? In food television, it is Alton Brown. Lucky, my first gig was on Iron Chef beside Alton. I still learn something new from him on Cutthroat Kitchen- every episode. While not a mentor exactly, there are some people I look to as models of how to behave and conduct myself in this industry. Bobby Flay, for example. After I am on his show I always receive a handwritten note from Bobby. Not some auto-generated thing, a very special personal note from him. He’s extremely busy but makes time to personally let me know my time is appreciated. It is lessons like that I learn from the ones who do it right. I watch how certain people treat the crew and the staff on set and I strive to be hugely polite and greatly appreciative. I am a huge believer in treating people nice when you don’t have to. That’s the right way to behave.
What was your big break? Certainly the Food Network call about Iron Chef was my first big break. I did the screen test but never expected it to happen. When it did, I was almost immediately on the show and did every episode for three years. I’ve done more than 100 episodes on Food Network.
What was your favorite episode or memorable bite from Iron Chef? There are two that really stand out for me. Battle Ground Meat: Bobby Flay vs. Viet Pham. Bobby did a hamburger. We were all thinking, really, Bobby? You’re serving us a hamburger on Iron Chef? But it was that great. It takes guts to bring out a hamburger on Iron Chef and only Bobby would be able to pull it off. He lost the battle but that hamburger was memorable.
Another extremely simple and yet memorable dish was by Amanda Frietag in the Semi-final for Next Iron Chef: Redemption in Las Vegas. There were only three chefs left: Amanda, Alex Guarnaschelli and Nate Appleman. They were each assigned an ingredient… Nate had haddock, Alex had sea urchin and Amanda had chicken. Amanda did a simple roasted chicken with seared lemons. It was perfectly cooked. After one bite, we sent her through to the final. It had the perfect texture of skin, acidity from the lemons, and just enough herbs and garlic. Get Chef Freitag’s recipe for Lusty Lemon Chicken…
And by the way, your Alabama chef Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club is one of the finest chefs in America. His meal against Bobby Flay was also among my all-time favorites.
What is your favorite quote? I have a new one I like from author Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice” which I find to be so true. Once you’ve been somewhere, it changes your preconceived perceptions. My standard quote that I’ve always liked is from a 14th century book of Christian mythical devotions called Revelations of Divine Love. “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” It is the romantic equivalent to British saying that has become so popular: “Keep Calm and Carry On” which is very British.