From cookbooks to food columns, Rebecca Seal is one of the UK’s favourite foodie writers and presenters. Here the author and Sunday Brunch regular tells us how she preps for telly and where to find the best brunch in the world (hint: Lionel Ritchie is involved!).
When and where did your fascination with food and drink begin?
My parents find my career quite extraordinary as I was a fussy kid, a vegetarian who didn't really like vegetables, and I hated bitter flavours like beer, wine or coffee. But when I went to university in London I was exposed to all sorts of new things, including new flavours and ways of cooking, eating and drinking, and gradually I got more and more interested. By the time I was about 23 I was enthralled enough to seek out work experience at Observer Food Monthly magazine, which ultimately turned into my first proper journalism job.
For a time you wrote a breakfast column for a national magazine. Why do you think breakfast – and brunch – are such wonderful meals?
There's so much possibility in the first meal of the day! I loved writing the column, because it was about what famous or notable people had for breakfast and I would recreate the recipes – there was so much variety, from a Burmese fish soup and Japanese omelette, to porridge and many, many different kinds of pancake. Brunch I like because it's always a treat, always a leisurely moment. You don't order Eggs Benedict when you're in a hurry, so it automatically means downtime.
You’ve travelled far and wide for your work as a food writer and presenter. Where did you find the brunch of your dreams?
This makes me sound so spoiled, but I once had brunch in the Bahamas, at a fantastically luxe resort which was hosting a weekend-long celebration of all things cheffy. I had brunch on the Sunday morning with all the other journalists; the night before we'd been serenaded by Lionel Ritchie (really) and that morning brunch was set to an all-star soul choir.
Can you tell us about your work on Sunday Brunch? How do you prepare for each segment you do, and what’s your favourite part of the role?
The producers and I come up with the ideas, then I do heaps of research, and the producers do lots, too, then we pool everything we know or have discovered and create a script.
Preparing the day before is a bit like revising for an exam - I always have piles of facts that I don't get to mention because I have far too much material! My favourite part is the adrenalin rush that comes with live TV, knowing you have to get it right and that you're the only thing on Channel 4 at that moment.
Why is gin such a great spirit for drinking during the day?
I've got small kids, so I can't say I get to drink in the daytime all that often, but I like gin because it's fresh but also complex. I like how it can be herby or fruity or crisp, depending on the recipes it is used in. It's certainly the spirit I drink most often.
What’s your favourite brunch cocktail, and why?
It's so predictable, but you can't beat the classics - a proper Mimosa or a Bloody Mary, which I love with either fresh tomato juice and plenty of spice, or with a splash of clamato juice, which I know pretty much every British reader of this will find baffling. I promise, it's really good.