Meet the finalists: Tarragons of Virtue

>> Thursday, 8 July 2010

It's now the turn of Billy "Cowfish" Abbott and Melanie "OmNomLondon" Seasons to share their thoughts on making the NomNomNom finals as Tarragons of Virtue.

Tarragons of Virtue

What makes you two the perfect NomNomNom pairing?

Our partnership was forged in the heat of food related battle – serving behind a bar at the Blaggers’ Banquet, fighting off London’s foodie cognoscenti as the sighted ‘free’ booze. Also, Billy knows how to burn meat and Melanie knows how to make things to go with burned meat.

Billy & Melanie at Blaggers' Banquet by Carmen Valino
Photo (c) Carmen Valino

What impact do you think social networks and bloggers have had on the world of cooking and/or restaurant reviewing?

Billy: It’s opened things up a bit, even if a lot of food blogging is mainly consumed by other food bloggers, but mainly it seems to have empowered people to write about food, no matter who is the reader at the end of the day. While there’s a lot of ‘I must take a photo of every part of my meal for later’ there’s also a lot more ‘I’m allowedthink and write about food just as much as a professional, I’ll think I’ll have a go’. Lowering the barrier to entry does mean there’s a lot more dross, but it also means there’s more enthusiastic people out there with an outlet.

Melanie: It’s made restaurateurs more aware, definitely. The places you see with the best reputation in the minds of food bloggers are the ones who interact with us outside of the restaurant, whether that be on our blogs or Twitter. In essence, places like Hawksmoor or Polpo have turned us into loyal brand advocates, going out of our way to dine somewhere based on word of mouth. It’s an incredibly powerful sales tool. And, of course, a positive review after helps.

Can you tell us about a memorable disaster you’ve had in the kitchen?

Billy and KangBilly: Inspired by watching Heston Blumenthal’s first series of Banquets back to back I decided to make fizzy Gin and Tonic jelly. The first failure was the lack of fizzy-ness – stripping the coating from a Cola shoelace did not quite give the frothing kick of pop-rocks. The second was the construction of my jelly – gelatine hates me. I ended up with a tasty agar based pud, but my first tries involved gelatine and a variety of moulds filled with a substance similar in consistency to a bouncy ball which resisted my attempts to slice it. St Heston is better at being St Heston than I am

Melanie: I’ll admit that I’m not an expert in the kitchen. Even though I pretty much have an opinion about everything I eat, it doesn’t make me an expert chef. I should have kept this in mind when trying to make a decent pork belly. What was supposed to be a lovely piece of meat turned into a dry mess with a slimy layer of fat. This is why I’m leaving the main course to Billy.

Which ingredient can you not live without?

Billy: Garlic. Almost everything I cook contains it and it has surprised me that our menu of NomNomNom doesn’t contain any. I suspect I will have to make something garlicy to bring along as a snack to make up for it. Maybe garlic vodka

Melanie: Sriracha – the wonder Thai chilli sauce. It goes with everything: omlettes, stir-fry, chips, Bolognese. It’s the most versatile, tasty chilli sauce in the world.

And finally, what is the special element that will ensure that your team wins?

Heart, faith and steel. For in the end there can be only one. Team. Who wins.
And also, a very clever name: The tarragons of virtue. Hopefully it will stick with the judges.

Follow Billy and Melanie on Twitter this Sunday to see if their bar tending skills work equally well in the kitchen.


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