British cookbook author and food critic Tom Parker Bowles is acutely aware of his country’s historically lackluster interpretation of cuisine.
“There’s an idea about British food that it’s all drab and dreary and greasy and bland and really just s–t,” explained the gregarious son of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. “But British food is about very good seasonal ingredients done well.”
On Monday night, Bowles and Fortnum & Mason chief executive officer Ewan Venters hosted an intimate al fresco dinner at The Redbury hotel in New York to celebrate the U.S. launch of his latest culinary guide, “Fortnum & Mason The Cook Book.” The hardcover tome draws inspiration from the venerable British grocer with updated recipes for iconic dishes like Scotch eggs and Shepherd’s Pie alongside vibrant graphic illustrations from the company’s early 20th-century catalogues.
“Fortnums is a brand that’s built an empire in feeding the upper class and the ruling class for many, many years — everyone from Churchill to Queen Victoria, but you can’t just sit fossilized in amber, ” opined Bowles while sipping a glass of red wine.
Although adroit in the kitchen and certainly no stranger to the aristocratic set, Bowles joked that he would be “idiotic” to cook for his mother and stepfather Prince Charles.
“My mum is a very good cook, but my stepdad and my mum have a lot of very good chefs,” he said of the royal couple. “I like chili and spice and garlic and [Charles and Camilla] come from a generation where they don’t really like chili. My mum is quite particular, but she’s also a mum. She’s very good at scrambled eggs.”
Despite a heavily publicized love affair with Prince Charles during his 15-year marriage to Princess Diana, the Duchess officially entered public life when she and the heir to the British throne finally married in 2005.
“She’s the opposite of most people in that for the first 55 years of her life she was just our mum and looked after us and didn’t work,” Bowles added. “Suddenly in her 60s she’s working her ass off [with royal engagements].”
While Bowles’ has a seemingly close proximity to the Crown, the 42-year-old is not in the habit of regularly whipping up tea and biscuits for Queen Elizabeth II. “God no — after all, she’s still the bloody Queen,” he exclaimed.