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From Tony Blair to Nick Robinson, why Londoners love Johnnie Mountain's crackling restaurant

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ArtMan Kevin Wilson enters the world of celebrity chefs and interviews the next big star

You may have seen him on the telly causing a memorable moment on the Great British Menu (BBC2) when he walked out of the competition after being unfairly bullied by the chef judging. The nation rallied behind Johnnie, twitter went wild against his unfair treatment. He’s also just popped up on Chef Race in the USA , where he excelled and gained a new group of USA fans.

Mountain is about to become chiselled into our heads when his many new projects hit us. He’s a fireball of energy and an intense excitement of a man that should be a daily fix in our lives.

He’s been called eccentric, he’s beaten the daemon drink and has popped up with Ruby Wax giving an valuable insight into mental health and the fraught intense world that top chefs live in. Luckily his beautiful wife Manjri and two little Mountains keep him on the straight and narrow.

Johnnie’s track record runs numerous high ranking chef positions including Head Chef at Mirabelle and many TV shows. In 2010 Johnnie opened The English Pig restaurant which in now located smack bang in political land. It’s a regular political media clientele hang out and a very successful well reviewed eating place. It’s a social high end affair which hasn’t needed to shout its face off to get noticed. The English Pig has a beautiful tight menu that exudes excellence; this man knows his crackling.

I asked the man behind the Mountain a few questions

Who does the English Pig attract – who’s your typical customer?

The English Pig attracts an array of clientele, lots of the news and politico crowd, Tony Blair is booked in next week and Nick Robinson and the likes, all the gang from the Met Office come in Sian Lloyd, Robin, Alex Beresford etc. Plus, and most importantly are the local, regular lovely general public!!

Thousands of people rallied to your support after your appearance on BBC’s The Great British Menu. What’s the story behind your conflict with Marcus Wearing?

The conflict behind Marcus Wareing started many, many years ago, The first series of Great British Menu I appeared in was three years ago, He always ostracised me, bullying never came into it at first. I’m not the type to be bullied, I don’t suffer fools gladly and I have very little fear in life, if people had been down to the bottom as much as I have in my life, they would feel the same!!
Marcus approached me on the first day of filming and questioned me over a conversation that happened on twitter between myself and someone posing as him, score….I felt like I was in the wrong competition as soon as he started marking the other chefs up. When MW said he didn’t ‘get’ my dish, he was just wanting to personally attack me, and as you saw he did. This was a massive blow to me, it really knocked me inside and out!!

Johnnie Mountain

What’s your favourite place to eat in London ( or favourite chef in London )

My favourite place to eat in London with my family is Asha restaurant in Ilford, a south Indian restaurant, great for Vegetarians, a real Mecca with only a few non-Indians. With mates I love Cellar Gascon at Smithfield and with my wife, a romantic meal would be at Alyn Williams at The Westbury. My favourite chef and Demi God of Gastronomy is Michel Roux, the real godfather of cooking.

Your participation in the Ruby Wax programme on depression and mental health really helped highlight this hidden illness. Do you feel we are getting more enlightened in 2013?

I was very proud to be asked to be involved in the Depression programme with Ruby Wax, I have always admired Ruby and thought there was something very different about her. It’s very important to bring a subject to light that affects probably the majority of the population, we all have our ‘ups and downs’, but with some of us, it goes a little further. It affects creative people a lot more, successful people and generally people in the media as a lot is ‘expected’ of them, the roller coaster is a lot scarier for people in the public eye. They have nowhere to hide when the sh*t hits the fan. We have seen this with many a celebrity from Stephen Fry to Spike Milligan. Depression’s not fun, often misused and definitely mistreated; my coping mechanism right now is just trying not to become too excited about anything!!  It’s very hard to be pessimistic, when I am the eternal optimist….

Does London still ‘do it’ for you?

I’m using London as a commodity right now. I have two beautiful kids, Lily and Hari, aged seven and six respectively and London is not the place for them to grow into the humans I would love to see them grow into!! Australia is the goal in around five or so years, it seems to be a calm country with brighter prospects for my babies and of course with my wife being Indian, she is desperate to go to a hotter country!!

Cooking with a passion for pork

Your great new cookbook Pig is going down really well, was it hard to put together?

My book, PIG, felt like childbirth, horrific trying to squeeze it out, whilst building my new restaurant, but I had a an amazing recipe tester and a phenomenal photographer, with videos running through the book, making those ‘awkward’ recipes a little easier to understand, it’s pretty good and I’m very pleased with the outcome. A second book, Souffles and Self Destruction, is on its way!!  At least another two years!!

Kevin Wilson is an international arts consultant, curator and collector. He advises on collections, investmentsand projects. His clients range from the Historical Royal Palaces, international corporations, private individuals and collections worldwide. He is also director of the public art agency Artpoint and one half of fashion designer duo Vin and Omi.




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