The Weekender Interview: Josh Katz

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Josh Katz Berber & Q
Josh Katz opened Berber & Q in Haggerston in 2015 and has since opened two further restaurants under the brand, which sees Middle Eastern and North African dishes reinterpreted using US barbecue techniques.

What image do you currently have on your phone’s wallpaper?
My daughter, Delilah.

What was your first job?
I worked as a waiter for The Dome, way back when it was a chain of well-known café bars.

Gordon or Marco?
Marco. He’s more gangster.

What was the last film you saw in the cinema?
The Disaster Artist. Not my cup of tea.

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?
Roast Cantonese duck, off-the-bone, on rice.

Where are you going on your next holiday?
I was supposed to be in Ibiza right now, but my partner decided to have her appendix out the day before we left. I’m off to Sweden in June.

What industry figure do you most admire (and why)?
Yotam Ottolenghi. For the sheer scale of his global impact, what he’s achieved, for staying so humble through his rise, and for maintaining the credibility and quality of his brand through sensible expansion when many others might have rolled it out at it’s own expense.

If you weren’t in restaurants, what would you do?
Obviously I’d run a safari lodge.

Biggest regret?
Not opening a safari lodge. 

Pet hate?
Overly bright restaurants. I hate being made to feel like I’m at the dentist’s when eating my dinner. I’m all about the dimly lit.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
One customer asked me if our onions were free range.

Marmite: love it or hate it?
Hate it.

Describe your cooking style in three words
Technicolour. Rustic. Punchy.

What country do you next want to visit?
Japan. Or India.

Most overrated food?
Ramen. Sorry. I know this contradicts my last answer slightly. I’m not against ramen so much as I just don’t get what all the fuss is about.

Restaurant czar for a day – what would you implement?
Everybody gets treated with the respect that they deserve.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
Touch wood there’s not been anything negative reviews to date, except for on Trip Advisor of course.

What made you want to become a chef?
I’ve always loved cooking, and eating even more so. For me cooking is a creative expression with endless possibilities, and I use it as my creative outlet. But I became a chef because I’ve always liked the idea of providing hospitality – entertaining, making people enjoy themselves and feel well looked after, of which food is just one key aspect.

What do you cook at home on your days off?
Shakshuka (poached eggs in spicy sauce) is probably the dish that I cook the most at home. I rarely cook the same dish twice with the exception of shakshuka. I love a good spag bol as well. But who doesn’t, right?

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Think long and hard as to whether it’s for you. It can be very rewarding, but incredibly taxing and all-consuming. It compromises your relationships, friendships and social life. You have to really want to do it otherwise you’ll fall by the wayside eventually.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
Chef’s knife.

iPhone or Android?
iPhone. Might look to switch it up soon though.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Give it time.

What’s your earliest memory?
Falling down the stairs when I was 3, possibly 4.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
Ibiza. Not that I have any hair. 

Twitter or Instagram?

Tipple of choice?
Whisky. Straight, on the rocks.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
It would probably be the foie gras ravioli with truffle that is the signature dish at a restaurant called Les Gorges Des Pennafort in Draguinan, South of France.

Berber & Q by Josh Katz (Ebury Press) on 31 May (£25, Ebury) 

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