Fine Living | Diary of a Somebody

Ilse Crawford

The design maven on the importance of food in bringing people together

Ilse Crawford

February 02 2011
Ilse Crawford

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I had shepherd’s pie envy yesterday. We took some prospective clients to Rochelle Canteen based in an old school on Arnold Circus in Shoreditch. Oozing temptingly in its small pudding bowl, it couldn’t be improved upon. School lunches were never like that.

Good food is very important in our studio. I moved to Borough to be near the market and in the studio we cook a lot. I am a big believer in slow-food champion Alice Waters’ philosophy that food humanises us. We always have delicious snacks and lunches for clients; it makes the table a place that brings people together rather than a place for confrontation. An interest in food and food ethics is a common denominator for my team. I think it’s very odd when people suppress their natural appetite. Suppress one, suppress them all... The only time I do is when I’m travelling. I have a rule: never eat anything beige, which pretty much rules out all airport and aeroplane food.

Yesterday’s discussions were about a hotel project in Switzerland that will not open until 2016. An interesting conundrum. The starting point was to work out where the people behind the project saw their business heading, because in the end the people behind a project are the only constants in a changing world. That and the financing, because aside from a few inspired exceptions, the ratio of the amount spent on a project and the amount that can be charged for a room in the end is pretty much a science. What we all agree on, too, is that hotels will increasingly need to reflect our real and human needs, and that the era of the “design” hotel is over.

One thing I really enjoy when I am home alone is TED (talks from the nonprofit Ideas Worth Spreading organisation) in bed. The online talking heads are the grown-up equivalent of a bedtime story. Except last night it was LSE in bed instead. I’ve discovered their podcasts. They have such good speakers but generally getting there by 6pm is a bit of a challenge and it turns out that most of them go online. Last night I listened to Jonathan Safran Foer, whose book on the meat industry Eating Animals is a very rational argument for vegetarianism. He had some great numbers: in the US today evidently each individual eats 108 times more chicken than they did at the turn of the last century, most of it in the form of McNuggets and KFC. Scary.

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