“I love the Italian attitude to food: it’s so convivial and relaxed and inclusive. Everyone here has such a passion for food!” exclaims Skye MacAlpine, who divides her time between Venice, where she grew up, and London, where other culinary delights await. “I love the British tradition of puddings and baking: I have such a sweet tooth!”
The inspiration for her latest book — her award-winning debut A Table in Venice wowed foodies across the world — came about after realising how many people found it so stressful to cook for others. “One of my greatest joys in life is having friends over and sitting down together to enjoy a good meal, but I noticed that, for a lot of people, the idea of inviting someone over to eat is often stressful,” she says.
“I wanted to find a way of helping others cook for their friends in a way that allows them to enjoy that process — and to hopefully inspire them to do it more often.” And with chapters organised into “Throw together”, “On the hob” and “In the oven”, she really has covered all kinds of cooks and every size of kitchen.
But for Skye, cooking and sharing food comes second nature and she is unfazed by those gatherings that take on a life of their own. “Last year, I cooked a dinner to celebrate my mother’s birthday,” she says. “Somehow we ended up being 24 at our old, pretty small kitchen in our then London flat. We were all squeezed in round one long table, which I had fashioned out of trestles, and it was such a hot night in June. It was chaos and there was barely space to breathe, but it was an evening full of so much joy. I’ll never forget it.”
Her advice for any gathering, whatever the size, is to “skip starters, just focus your energies on a nice big star dish for the main course, along with a side dish or two and perhaps a nice fresh salad. Then make (or buy) a really indulgent pudding. That’s the recipe for the perfect dinner party.
“I kept it simple for my mother’s birthday — we had cold roast beef, new potatoes with lemon and samphire and huge bowls of salad, with coffee walnut cake for pudding.
“But really, it’s all about the people — and then creating a welcoming and relaxed setting for everyone to kick back and enjoy themselves.”
Skye has inspired many to take up the challenges of the kitchen, but she is herself hugely inspired by her own foodie heroine, the legendary Ruth Rogers. “I love her passion for simple, beautiful food. Her work at the River Café has, in so many ways, shaped the way we think about food in the UK today. I also find the way she lifts others up with her — particularly women in the industry —so inspiring. She is such a champion of those of us still just starting out.”
Skye McAlpine’s A Table for Friends: The Art of Cooking for Two or Twenty is published by Bloomsbury. For more information: